Blueprint for P2P Society: The Partner State & Ethical Economy
Michel Bauwens, avril 2012
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A new way to produce is emerging. By this I mean: a new way to produce anything and everything, whether it is software, food, or cities. What once required rigid organisations and a society defined by the mentality of hierarchies, we are discovering now (and in many cases re-discovering) how to do through free association of peers.
It is also becoming clear that entering an era defined by an ethos of free association and horizontality doesn’t mean institutionality itself will dissappear, but that it will undergo the deepest of transformations. In the emerging institutional model of peer production, most visibly in the free software industry, we can distinguish an interplay between three partners:
A community of contributors that create commons of knowledge, software or design;
An enterpreneurial coalition that creates market value on top of that commons; and
A set of for-benefit institutions which manage the « infrastructure of cooperation »
There is a clear institutional division of labour between these three players.
The contributors create the use value that is deposited in the shared innovation commons of knowledge, design and code.
The for-benefit institution enables and defends the general infrastructure of cooperation which makes the project ‘collectively’ sustainable. For example the Wikimedia Foundation collects the funds to support the server space without which access to the Wikipedia would become impossible.
The enterpreneurial coalition makes the individual contributors ‘sustainable’, by providing an income, and very often they provide means for the continued existence of the for-benefit associations as well.
Can we also learn something about the politics of this new mode of value creation, something that would be useful not just for these particular communities, but to society in general? Is there perhaps a new model of power and democracy co-evolving out of these new social practices that may be an answer to the contemporary crisis of democracy? My answer will be an emphatic yes, and stronger yet, I will argue that we are witnessing a new model for the state. A ‘P2P’ state, if you will.
Let’s look at the mechanics of power and the politics of commons-oriented peer production by looking at the three players involved in this new institutional set-up.