Social economy or peer production?

On the relationship of social economy and peer production

Examples of peer production
  • Free Software
    • Oldest example
    • Very visible

  • Wikipedia
    • More recent
    • Extremely visible

  • Open Access
    • I.e. Free Science
    • Very interesting movement

  • Others...
A growing movement
Definition: Peer production
  • Focussed on production of useful goods

  • Based on openness
    • Everyone may participate (internal openness)
    • Everyone may use the product (external openness, commons)

  • Based on Selbstentfaltung
    • Selbstentfaltung == enjoying task and project
    • Having fun individually but maintain relation to society
    • Expression of Selbstentfaltung: Volunteers do useful things for fun

  • No goals beyond a nice project (aka no alienation)
    • Results in production of use value
Peer production == production + openness + Selbstentfaltung
Definition: Solidarity economy
  • Hard to find a good definition

  • Common topic: Orientation in political goals
    • Fairness, solidarity, social values
    • Democracy and ecology
    • Criticism of neo-liberal concepts
Addresses political values missing in capitalist economies
Definition: Social economy
  • Somewhat easier to find a good definition
  • Common topics
    • Non-profit
    • Support for disadvantaged groups
    • May include volunteers
Addresses poverty and unprofitable goals
Forms of social / solidarity economy
  • Focus on production
    • Cooperative companies
    • State companies under democratic control
    • Self-managed companies
  • Focus on distribution
    • Consumer cooperatives
    • Local Exchange Trade Systems (LETS)
    • Gratis shops

Comes in various implementations

Therefore: A bit difficult to generalize

Reasons, goals, means
...for social / solidarity economy
  • Reason: Capitalism has shortcomings
    • Such as: social injustice, rule of money, destruction of nature, alienated labor
    • Results in political will to overcome the shortcomings

  • Goal: Repair shortcomings of capitalism
    • In this case: By economic activities
    • Today: Retreat of the (welfare) state creates new gaps every day

  • Means: Cast political will onto capitalist economy
    • Mostly by non-profit activities
    • Sometimes supported by the welfare state

Supplement to capitalism based on political will

Important: Goal is repairing

Social / solidarity economy and capitalism
  • Actors and goals somewhere between
    • supplement to capitalism
    • opposed to capitalism
  • Third sector between
    • private sector / business
    • public sector / government
Position in capitalism is "between"
...for peer production

  • Reason

    • Useful goods are missing
    • It's fun to create them
    • Commodities have only relative quality
    • Commodities are not available freely

  • Goal: Make available useful goods while having fun

    • "Make available" presupposes producing them

      This is different from illegal copies!

    • Production is Selbstentfaltung / fun

      Production of commodities is alienated

  • Means: Replace capitalist production with openness and Selbstentfaltung
    • Selbstentfaltung is a direct goal
    • External openness / commons is a direct goal
    • Internal openness / participation is a precondition for peer production

New mode of production beyond political will

Important: Means are replacement

Peer production and capitalism
  • Valorization is opposed to openness
    • Commodities must be scarce == no external openness
    • Business secrets are to be kept == no internal openness

  • Market is opposed to Selbstentfaltung
    • Abstract money logic prevents Selbstentfaltung
    • Relative quality is "good enough"

  • Economic approach fundamentally different from capitalism
A new mode of production
Commonalities and differences
  • Common goal: Improve life by certain economic activity
    • Attain goals impossible in capitalism
  • Economic activities
    • == production, distribution, consumption of goods
  • Beneficiaries inside and outside
  • Embedded in capitalism
  • Non-profit
  • Individuals as predominant actors
  • Self-managed
There are similar structures and a common goal
Differences concerning economic activities
Topic Social / solidarity economy Peer production
Relevance of production Secondary (if at all) Predominant
Distribution target Closed groups Commons (external openness)
Reason for activity Political will Selbstentfaltung
Precondition for activity Political will Education / abilities in the respective field
Many differences in economic activities
Differences in subjective values
Topic Social / solidarity economy Peer production
Mind set of actors bound to... Capitalism New mode of production
Political values Key None in particular
Solidarity Key Irrelevant
Participation and empowering Political goal (if at all) Precondition (internal openness)

Mind set of actors: Supplementing and opposing both relate to capitalism

Political values: In Free Software political values are massively different

Peer production does not need political awareness
Differences concerning mode of production
Topic Social / solidarity economy Peer production
Mode of production Basically the same as capitalism New mode of production
If capitalism would work better... ...would be no longer necessary ...would still be better than capitalism
Keeping capitalism out of... difficult because of equal structures easy because of openness
New mode of production is more sustainable
Most important differences 1/2

There are really lots of differences...

Topic Social / solidarity economy Peer production
Relevance of production Secondary Predominant
Distribution target Closed groups Commons
Reason for activity Political will Selbstentfaltung
Most important differences 2/2
Topic Social / solidarity economy Peer production
Political values Key None in particular
Mode of production Basically the same as capitalism New mode of production
Relationship to capitalism Repairing as a goal Replacing as a means
Some structures are similar but the differences go deep
Summarizing commonalities and differences
  • Some common goals and structures
    • Because of that the left gets interested in peer production
  • Major differences go deep
    • Openness is precondition instead of limitation
    • Selbstentfaltung instead of political will
    • New mode of production instead of supplement to capitalism
  • Most significant: Relationship to capitalism
    • Repairing capitalism as a goal for social / solidarity economy
    • Replacing capitalism as a means for peer production
Though goals and some structures are similar the differences are big
The social enterprise compass
Public Private
Primary objective of the enterprise Social purpose Social administration Social enterprises
Commercial purpose Public enterprises Private industries
Useful to classify projects / enterprises
Peer production and the social enterprise compass
Commons / Community Public Private
Primary objective of the enterprise Selbstentfaltung Peer production - -
Social purpose (Side-effect of ownership) Social administration Social enterprises
Commercial purpose (Commercial peer production) Public enterprises Private industries
Peer production is hard to locate in the social enterprise compass
Overcoming capitalism
Target groups
  • So far: Analysis of the relationship between social / solidarity economy and peer production
  • Now: Considerations about ways to improve society effectively
  • Two target groups for this section
    • People in social / solidarity economy most interested in improving society
    • People in peer production interested in political effects
Fundamentally different approaches 1/2
Topic Social / solidarity economy Peer production
History Old approach with little effect New approach based on contemporary options
Actors Marginal groups Core groups
Fundamentally different approaches 2/2
Topic Social / solidarity economy Peer production
Origin Political will and awareness Needs of people and ability
Means and goals Repairing capitalism is a goal Replacing capitalism is a means
Mode of production Capitalist framework is kept Capitalist framework is replaced

What looks similar on first glance is really very different
Suggestions for a long-term improvement
  • Question: How does fundamental societal change come about?

  • Answer: By a new mode of production
    • Historical example: Shift from feudalism to capitalism

  • Social / solidarity economy is necessary

    • Retreat of the welfare state needs action


  • Social / solidarity economy offers no perspective
    • No way to overcome capitalist mode of production

  • Peer production is the perspective
    • Establishes a new mode of production
    • This is the sustainable way to change society fundamentally

If you want to be effective support peer production
  • In general: Difficult
    • Mind sets are very different
    • Goals are very different
    • Very few practical examples
  • Social / solidarity economy can benefit from peer production
    • Because commons of peer production are available for everyone
  • Can peer production benefit from social / solidarity economy?

Oekonux/Research/SocialEconomyOrPeerProduction (last edited 2009-07-10 18:52:03 by StefanMerten)

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