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Re: <nettime> [Networkedlabour] Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Eco
Michel Bauwens on Tue, 30 Dec 2014 16:31:21 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> [Networkedlabour] Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy

   Dear Brian,

   it's a great honour to have your considered response here, I may later
   respond in a flowing text, but I will start by reacting inline to some
   of your comments and critique, which I take in an entirely constructive

   On Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 11:14 AM, Brian Holmes

   <bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com> wrote:

     *Orsan wrote:

          global political economy theory started with Cox, and p2p theory would
          benefit from a fruitful exchange. Potentially a p2p update on the
          understanding of the 'transnationalization of production', which as
          process overlaps with the informatization of economy, networkisation of
          societies, and neoliberal globalisation offensive, or vice versa; a
          global political economy upgrade for p2p theory, in my opinion is

     I totally agree, and that's the thrust of a response I just wrote on
     Nettime to the book by Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis (I'll
     paste that response below). One of Cox's followers, Stephen Gill,
     showed long ago that neoliberalism has from the outset been a
     fundamentally trilateral hegemony (US-Western Europe-Japan). Now
     that all three poles of the hegemony are arguably in decline, it
     would be useful to analyze the weak points where an amplified and
     generalized p2p strategy could begin changing the common sense of
     citizenship, business and government, and of dissent and revolution
     too. I don't do that here - far from it - but the strong proposals
     at the end of the Future Scenarios book did seem to call out for
     exactly that kind of analysis, which would ground them in reality
     without invalidating them by any means. So I hope my critiques of
     the book do appear as constructive, because they were intended that
     way. - best, BH

     * * *


     Thanks for this book, Michel and Vasilis. "Future Scenarios for a
     Collaborative Economy" is exceedingly timely and I would recommend it to
     anyone interested in the Commons specifically, or in political economy
     more generally. In response, I've written something in between a review
     and a letter to the authors. I address Michel because he posted it.
     Hopefully he will respond to a few of my comments!

     I like the book, Michel, but I must also say, I'm somewhat mystified by
     it. I like the very sophisticated strategy that it sets out at the end
     for a possible transition to a society of commons-based production.  I'm
     mystified by the rather simplistic presentation of contemporary
     capitalism at the beginning. What explains the gap?

First of all, I would like to explain a few caveats. This book
explicitely says at the beginning it doesn't want to be yet another
critique of capitalism. There are two reasons for this, first that I am
probably not up to that task. I am far from being the classic
intellectual who would have the time to keep up with all that necessary
reading; I am more of a digital curator , playing a role as a networker
and catalyst, from a certain and very specific angle: that of someone
who believes that the core condition for change is structural first,
i.e. a focus on  the new mode of production that is emerging, and that
is mostly embedded in the present political economy, but also starts to
show early sings of an 'organic system', i.e. that it can eventually
find the way to self-reproduce itself, and to create an accumulation of
the commons, to replace the system of accumulation of capital. What
interests us, me and Vasilis, are the specific parts of capitalism that
'react' to this emergence, i.e. the systemic logic of cognitive
capitalism (living off rents) that is now in part morphing to
netarchical capitalism, i.e. forms of capitalism which are entirely
geared, not to destroy the emergent commons, but to subsume it and
profit from it. So I see it that way, there are many scholars, who have
studied in depth the current evolution of capitalism in its complexity,
but they are missing an evolution of major import if they ignore the
emergence of peer production, which I feel they do. If you know of any,
let me know, but I haven't seen them yet. We have plenty of
"social-democratic" or "social-liberal" approaches (Benkler, Tapscott,
Rifkin), but I have not seen any thinker of the left. Yes , Michael
Hardt and Toni Negri speak about the common, but it is a very
'metaphysical' approach, that is not concretely linked to the actual
emergence of peer production and its institutions.

On the other hand, we are more closer observers of the emergence of the
commons, and that part of capitalism that reacts and adapts to it.
Thus, as Orsan suggests, p2p theory does need an upgrade, but it may
not be us that are able to carry out such a necessary integration. But
the book hope at leasts to jumpstart that process, which is why I
really rejoice in your critique. I hope that it may wake up more
classic thinkers of the left to take the challenge of peer production
into account.

     In Part I you adopt the theoretical framework of "long waves of
     capitalist development" as put forth by Kondratiev and Schumpeter, and
     more recently, by Freeman and Perez (Trotsky and Mandel aren't
     mentioned). In its most general form, the long-wave idea is that
     capitalist society periodically goes through major depressions, during
     which investment is withdrawn from production. Meanwhile inventions
     accumulate until such time as conditions look good, and a massive wave
     of technological investment lays the foundations for a new growth cycle.
     Right now we're in such a depression. Therefore you try to analyze the
     possible futures of the current "techno-economic paradigm."

     There is some ambiguity here, but that's OK. On the one hand the book
     follows Carlota Perez, explaining that the information technology
     paradigm has run up against a set of internal contradictions and that a
     mature phase of sustained growth can only come under new political and
     institutional arrangements. On the other hand it hints in certain places
     at the emergence, in the upcoming years or decades, of an entirely new
     paradigm (which, according to Schumpeter or Freeman, implies a distinct
     set of technologies and organizational forms). And then near the end it
     quite strongly claims, with Marx, that capitalism must now be overcome
     in favor of a different system. The upshot seems to be that the new
     society will emerge from the old, perhaps not entirely smoothly, but not
     through an apocalyptic rupture either. That's realistic and desirable,
     in my view.

I agree with that assessment, but I think the situation is complicated
by very real ecological and structural challenges. In my reading, the
emergence of peer production is too fresh to be able to affirm that we
are 'right now' in a pre-revolutionary or revolutionary situation. So
we had the 'sudden systemic crisis' of 2008, and the Depression that
followed it, but nowhere near enough of the political and institutional
changes that would be necessary to launch a new successful kondratieff
wave. So the wave will come (though probably after another
'aftershock'), it will incorporate 'green' and 'p2p-commons' aspects
subsumed in a new capitalist compact, but it will be weak and messy as
it will lack a new 'social compact'. On the plus side, it also gives
the counterforces time. The aim for me is that, by the time the next
mid-term Kondratieff wave hits, the counter-economy of the commons will
have sufficient force to have achieved at least 'parity'. It is only
once parity is achieved, that a true phase transition process will be
on the agenda.  So the priorities right now, are to develop those type
of practices of governance and property, and those types of politics
and policy with the social movements aligned with it. What is to be
done right now is nothing less than a grand reconstruction of
emancipatory politics, aligned around the structural changes brought
about by both 'subsumed' and 'organic' forms of peer production. This
is why our proposals are dual, on the one hand our proposals for 'open
cooperativism', i.e. a set of interventions to create an organic
counter-economy; and on the other hand, the 'Commons Transition Plan',
a set of proposals to renew the transformative politics and policies of
emancipatory social forces.

     I too think some kind of new growth wave is almost inevitable, within a
     decade or so - and though it will probably not be on anywhere near so
     intensive as the postwar growth wave that so many theorists take as a
     norm, it could well be more extensive, reaching far more people on our
     densely populated planet. I also think such a new long wave does imply
     distinctly new technologies capable of attracting new investment; but in
     the absence of radical breakthroughs, the big difference is most likely
     to be in the political and institutional structures that govern those
     technologies. In other words, the current technology set is more likely
     to be augmented and institutionally inflected (as early mass
     manufacturing was by postwar Keynesian Fordism) than it is to be
     radically transformed (as Keynesian Fordism was radiclly transformed by
     the IT revolution). In other words, we are likely to get an extension
     and amplification of the certain aspects of the current paradigm, but
     under new institutional arrangements.

     The problem is, Michel, you never really discuss the current
     techno-economic paradigm in any serious way. What you and your co-author
     are talking about, in Parts I and II, is a small though important field
     of activity, the one that can be identified with keywords such as P2P,
     social media, crowd-sourcing, sharing economy, etc. The best parts of
     the book contain significant insight into these activities, as one would
     expect. However, by claiming to discuss the future of the entire
     capitalist system and then not really doing so, you blur the issue and
     diminish the potential value of your work.

I have explained why we have done so above, both by choice and because
of our real limitations. Nevertheless, we are unapologetic in the sense
that though emergent, this is really in our opinion, the key to the
transformation of our economies and societies. Yes, there is plenty
going on, but the key lever today, that is our thesis, is the emergence
of peer production, of the commoners and peer producers, and of
netarchical capital. Living in age, I see the move to middle class
realities, I see the popular mobilization to share more of the
proceeds, and this is important, but it is not crucial. What is crucial
is the change in the mode of production.

     One can follow Manuel Castells and call the current techno-economic
     paradigm "Informationalism" - or better, "Neoliberal Informationalism,"
     to give some idea of how this mode of production is governed. But
     Informationalism does not mean that the only significant commodity on
     the contemporary market is information. Nor does it signal an eclipse of
     industry, as you suggest in chapter 1.

I don't think we are suggesting this anywhere in chapter 1, so this is
either in my view a misinterpretation, or a lack of proper explanation
on our part. What we call for is in fact a new type of
industrialization, ie. open, distributed and solidary forms of
production, where 'what is heavy is local and what is light is global'.
In fact, we don't believe at all that " the only significant commodity
on the contemporary market is information"; we believe that information
is being de-commodified.We believe that in the new emergence
commons-driven economy, market activities develop around this
decommodified core, either in capitalist formats, as in the current
free software economy, or as we propose and is starting to happen, in
post-capitalist forms (market and non-market). We don't believe that at
this stage, these organic counter-forms of peer production can be
dominant, but we believe they can be significantly build and
strengthened, and form the basis of a new politics, just as the
cooperative movement formed the basis of emergent labour in the 19th

     Instead, Neoliberal
     Informationalism has been based on a "lead technology" which is new kind
     of producer goods, namely IT in all its facets (computers, software,
     cables, mobile telephony, communications satellites, etc). These goods
     in combination with networked organizational forms are used to create
     transnational supply chains, constituting what is generally called
     "just-in-time production" or "the global factory." The characteristic
     companies of neoliberal informationalism are not Facebook and Google, as
     one would gather from your book, nor even less, recent start-ups like
     AirBnB or Uber. They are giant networked firms like WalMart and Apple,
     which have their products manufactured in China, coordinate their work
     forces and supply chains through sophisticated IT systems, and sell
     their wares on the web as well as in the store. Or they are specialized
     corporations like Cisco, Verizon and IBM, which furnish the hardware and
     software for the new mode of production, distribution and sales. All
     these corporations have evolved under the anti-welfare policy mix of
     neoliberalism, and with the resources allocated by speculative
     finance, which has largely replaced the central planning of national

     Not coincidentally, finance itself is crucially enabled by IT.
     Computers, cable and satellite networks, transnationalism and financial
     governance are key aspects of the current techno-economic paradigm.

I agree that this is the case, at the same time, I would strongly argue
that the rapidly accelerating ecological, climate and resource crisis
will severely weaken this paradigm. These transnational supply chains
are extremely unsustainable and so it becomes a necessity for
progressive politics for focus on smart re-industrialisation and
re-localisation of production. The triple internets of knowledge
resources, energy and manufacturing give a potential basis for a entire
new vision of production and industrialization. The
de-industrialization that neoliberalism wrought in the West is no
fatality, and a very fragile construct in ecological terms. We can't
know if we succeed, but we can't afford not to try, as the alternative
is a chaotic desintegration of the world system.

     Now, it's necessary to add that older sectors, such as petroleum, steel,
     chemicals, automobiles, engineering, grain production, etc, remain
     tremendously significant for the global economy. They are not just going
     to disappear in the next ten or twenty years. However, the way these
     sectors are articulated, both internally and between each other, has
     effectively been transformed by IT, and that's why we can speak of
     Neoliberal Informationalism as a distinct techno-economic paradigm.

     As you and Vasilis point out, this paradigm has been predicated on low-
     wage precarious labor, and it has called on finance to furnish the means
     of consumption through the extension of credit to individuals. The debt
     burden of the working and middle classes has risen tremendously and
     now, in the overdeveloped world at least, these classes can no longer
     consume enough to prop up economic growth. So the system is in a deep
     crisis, one which cannot be resolved by simply pumping money into asset
     markets as various governments have been doing. That crisis is further
     intensified by geopolitical factors (rise of Asia) and by climate change 
     (which has been made a lot worse by the rise of Asia). How will the
     global political economy reconfigure itself under these circumstances?  
     And what can civil society do to influence the next redeployment of 
     capital? That's what we need to know.

Agreed, and we believe our proposals are part of this mix of what is
needed, albeit not the whole story, as you correctly suggest, but it
will be a crucial part of that new story.

     In Part II, it's really interesting how you present a diagrammatic field
     of four distinct yet neighboring scenarios, divided on the one hand
     between distributed and centralized organization (or local and global
     scales), and on the other hand, between capitalist and commons-based
     development paths (or "for profit" and "for benefit" activities, as you
     also say). However, for the reasons already stated, the capitalist or
     for-profit side of the diagram is not very convincing. In chapters 4
     and 5 we are introduced to two supposedly emergent categories. First, a
     corporate-scale "netarchical capitalism" where sharing and cooperative
     production are enabled by interfaces with closed, privately controlled
     backends that facilitate the harvesting of monetary value from social
     interaction. And second, an individual-scale "distributed capitalism"
     where everyone is asked to become a networked entrepreneur of him- or
     herself, creating their own backends for profit. Now, without a doubt
     these are already both realities. The first has already undergone
     significant expansion, partially wiping out the old media sphere with
     some inroads on the hobby, transport, in-person service and vacation
     sectors. The second has all the reality of neoliberal ideology: it is
     the computerized version of the entrepreneurial ideal, where everyone
     freely competes in an open, unregulated economic realm. But the claim
     that these figures represent the capitalism of tomorrow could only hold
     true if "we are not talking about monopoly capitalism" - which is a
     crucial caveat that you supply early on.

But Brian, the fact that capitalism has other more complex realities,
does not at all invalidate that these are important emegent realities.
The exponential growth of netarchical capitalism is a fact, not
conjecture; and the very rapid growth of precarious cognitive workers
is also a fact (along with other facts such as service workers growth
and the growth of industrial working classes in the Global South). In
the Netherlands, the so-called independent zzp workers (estimated to
count for half of precarious workers only), and reaching 25% of the
workforce if I'm not mistaken, are the most rapidly pauperising sector
of the economy. Again what we are saying is that these are crucial
trends, because they are the ones that are aligned with the
tranformation towards commons driven developments. Netarchical capital
is based on the direct exploitation of human cooperation, and networked
structures, and attendant commons, are absolutely crucial for the
survival and self-organisation of precarious knowledge workers. The
existence of complex other forms of capitalism does absolutely not
invalidate that.

     The problem is that we are talking about exactly that, Michel, just
     look around you. The great oligopolies that corral major sectors of the
     world economy, fixing prices and blocking the entry of smaller actors, are
     alive and despicably well in every major economic sector, including IT;
     and they are supported by very solid forces of the national and
     transnational state. To suggest that monopoly capitalism is on the way
     out through some force of networked nature is just plain mystifying, and
     that's the principal argument I have with this book.

But we are nowhere suggesting that. In fact, netarchical capitalism is
a new form of monopoly capitalism; and distributed capitalist networks
are rapidly monopolizing as well. Already bitcoin mining is in the
hands of one dominant player and the ownership of the coins is more
concentrated than that of sovereign money! This is true for all
distributed sectors, such as social lending, crowdfunding,
crowdsourcing, etc ...

The reason we stress this, is historical, since it is precisely a shift
within the managerial classes, towards new systems of production that
it could subsume, that prepared the ground for later phase transitions.
It is the Roman emperors and landed gentry that moved from slavery to
the 'coloni' system, and it is forces within feudalism that financed
the growth of the capitalist sector.  But the new feudal and
capitalist sectors that were first subsumed and served the maintenance
and survival of the old system, at the same time created new social
forces and contradictions that prepared the ground for more fundamental
change. So that is our argument, that the emergence of netarchical and
distributed capitalism show a shift from the managerial classes towards
the new modality of value creation and distribution. Given the
understanding that this is precisely how the two other phase
transitions that we now occured, rather than just deplore and critique
this, our suggestion is to learn from it. This means: how can commoners
and peer producers render the seeds of the new system into a 'organic'
system that can reproduce it. This is therefore the meaning of the two
other quadrants, they represent the organic alternatives to that
netarchical capture. What we are doing is not denying the old class
struggle between capital and labor, which continues to exist and
operate, but to say that a new type of class struggle is emerging, that
between commoners and netarchical capital. And we are saying, and of
course you could dispute this, that this new type of contradictions is
the most pregnant for social change, because it has in itself the
seedform of the new. It is the alliance between the old and new
emancipatory forces, which is key for social change.

     Something else really is changing, though; and this is where the book's
     proposals, and more generally, those collected by the P2P Foundation
     over the last decade, are really worth one's attention. What's happening
     is an impoverishment of the former "First World," which is losing out to
     the newly developed countries at the same time as it starts being
     subjected to the environmental stresses of climate change. What one can
     see on the horizon is a gradual evening-out of global wages, leaving
     much of the former West in decaying housing with legacy appliances and
     amenities, while populations in the East and South rise up to a roughly
     similar level and then stagnate. That's already happening: and the
     frustration it engenders was behind the wave of protests in 2011-2013,
     whether in Egypt, Brazil, Russia and Turkey, or in Spain and the US.
     It is precisely the existence of the oligopolies and the financial
     elites (the famous 1%) that account for this dynamic. And we're likely to
     see even more intense frustration and anger as these populations have to
     confront the difficulties of climate change. Under these conditions,
     both newly unemployed people and those who have gained or retained a
     precarious hold on middle-class status are likely to find great
     attraction in what the book calls "resilient communities" and "global
     commons." Additionally, intellectuals with a capacity to see the
     dead-end future, whatever their class, will start to look for serious

We agree here. At the same time, I would not consider the system as
static. The fundamental problem for the European population is that the
'surplus value' is no longer available for positive social contracts.
But this is no law of nature, just as the Latin American left showed
that a revival of the progressive state was possible (and achieved
tremendous social progress in just ten years, with every percent of GDP
growth leading to four times more poverty reduction than in Asia); just
so a renewed progressive left could set in motion, with a renewed
vision of the partner state, re-industrialization policies that would
relocate part of the surplus , available for social investments.

     The discussion becomes tremendously interesting when the "for benefit"
     categories are discussed, in their local and global forms. This is the
     Marxian part of the book, where a change of the system itself starts to
     look desirable. Both the for-benefit categories are based on the
     generative matrix of the Commons, and I love the clarity with which
     you've expressed its basic principles: "It could be said that every
     Commons scheme basically has four interlinked components: a resource
     (material and/or immaterial; replenishable and/or depletable); the
     community which shares it (the users, administrators, producers and/or
     providers); the use value created through the social reproduction or
     preservation of these common goods; and the rules and the participatory
     property regimes that govern people's access to it."

     At this point (Part III), the strict focus on information production is
     abandoned and what comes to the fore are the new possibilities presented
     by the maker revolution: not only 3-D printing, but all the
     computer-controlled tools which can use freely circulated open-source
     designs to create practical objects ranging from housing to automobiles.
     One can easily see the relevance of such productive capacities for
     impoverished communities, especially when they are beset by the stresses
     of changing climates, violent storms and soon, rising water levels.
     What's more, to take a page from Jeremy Rifkin's recent books, it
     becomes clear that with falling costs for solar and wind generation,
     energy production itself could potentially be decentralized and managed
     according to commons principles so as to build resilient communities.
     The combination of alternative energy sources with micro-manufacturing
     techniques represents a possible basis for a new form of economic growth
     that could cater to very large numbers of people despite, or rather
     because of, their inability to reach Fordist and Neoliberal levels of
     grotesque hyperconsumption. If the development of capitalist production
     during the next upswing could be influenced so as to furnish the
     infrastructure and toolkits of decentralized energy production and
     micro-manufacturing, then the next wave of growth could have many
     positive consequences. That's the paradigm shift that we need, and
     Part III makes that quite clear, bravo. The question is, how to make it
     happen? What are the "new institutional arrangements" that we need,
     and how to achieve them?

   Part of the answer can be found in another ebook we are publishing,
   that contains detailed proposals for a Commons Transition Plan, see
   commonstransitions.org . Guy James (Staniforth) in cc can provide
   you with copies on request. The transition plan is not complete, since
   it only focuses on 'social knowledge' (but does incorporate a stress on
   its material conditions), and we intend to work on this, with a focus
   on the material commons later on. Pat Conaty and Mike Lewis have
   already done brilliant work on transitioning towards material commons
   infrastructures, and we hope to achieve a convergence and integration
   of these approaches later on.

   The site commonstransition.org, is intended as a global platform to
   trash out precisely such commons transition experiences, practices and

     Or as you and Vasilis write:

     "Arguably, the issue is not to produce and consume less per se, but
     to develop new models of production which will work on a higher level
     than capitalist models. We consider it difficult to challenge the
     dominant system if we lack a working plan to transcend it. A post-
     capitalist world is bound to entail more than a mere reversal to pre-
     industrial times. As the TEPS theory informs us [ie, the theory of
     techno-economic paradigm shifts], the adaptation of current institutions and 
     the creation of new ones take place in the deployment phase of each TEP.
     We claim that the times are, finally, mature enough to introduce a
     radical political agenda with brand new institutions, fueled by the spirit
     of the Commons and aiming to provide a viable global alternative to the
     capitalist paradigm beyond degrowth or antiglobalization rhetorics."
     Now, that's not Carlota Perez talking anymore. That's a utopian Marxist
     strain that has affinities with Italian Autonomia, to the extent it
     believes that progressive use-values slumber within the technologies of
     capitalist exchange, and that these use-values can be liberated through
     the kinds of self-organization that the Internet facilitates. The
     question is, how to avoid making this a purely utopian thinking, as
     Autonomia has proven to be so far? How can commons-based peer production
     reach deeply into daily life? And how can it expand globally, both as a
     philosophy and as a set of informational tools that can take full
     advantage of the new decentralized energy and manufacturing toolkits?
     Or, to put it in strategic terms: How can civil-society actors find
     the opportunity, in the current depression and in the upswing that will
     almost inevitably follow it, to push corporate production into supplying
     the toolkits for a society that will finally escape the worst and most
     life-threatening consequences of the capitalist system?

The key thing here is to understand this is not utopian at all (in my
view, Autonomia focuses too much on resistance and struggle, and not
enough on construction/creation) , but that millions of human beings
are doing precisely that. The key becomes to learn from each other, to
put the pieces of the puzzle together. Things like open value
accounting, open supply chains, commons-oriented crowdfunding, etc ..
ALREADY EXISTS. The issue is rather, how to scale, how to create social
and political movements that can support, expand and sustain it.

     In chapter 8, I feel that you are groping for a way to bridge the
     gap between two rather different things. First, the many specific
     micro-examples of (mainly informational) commons-based production that
     you do provide, in welcome detail. Second, a full-fledged economic
     praxis that could rival with the existing forms of Neoliberal
     Informationalism, which you (and the rest of us) can only imagine
     somewhat fuzzily. The way you approach this problem suggests that
     you do recognize the difficulties of overcoming the norms imposed by
     monopoly capitalism: after all, they are exemplified by the trajectory of
     Free and Open-Source Software, which has still not been broadly adopted
     even though the operating systems are now perfectly serviceable and
     perfectly free. You cite two very promising projects from what could become
     the next techno-economic paradigm, namely the Rep-Rap 3-D printer
     project and the Wikispeed automobile project, both of which are impressive
     and point the way toward a new articulation of social production. But
     it's clear that without support from either large social movements, or
     powerful economic actors, or more likely both, a new wave of capitalist
     growth will render these projects insignificant - or at least, no more
     significant than Free Software is currently. Traditional monopoly
     capital will put the breaks on Wikispeed. The coming wave of investment
     and development has to be bent to fit collaborative priorities.
     Otherwise, a no-future scenario looms.

Here is a potential key: we already have a thriving nonprofit,
cooperative, social and solidarity economy; and they have capital; we
have growing sectors of ethical finance etc ... And we have rapidly
growing open approaches, but that are subsumed by capital  (such as
the shared knowledge economy responsible for 1/6th of US GDP). The key
is to create a convergence between the already existing ethical
economies, and the open economies.

As you can see here, this has been one of the three strategic
priorities of our work at the P2P Foundation:

     It is in this context that you introduce the "Partner State Approach":
     "The PSA could be considered a cluster of policies and ideas whose
     fundamental mission is to empower  direct social-value creation, and to
     focus on the protection of the Commons sphere as well as on the
     promotion of sustainable models of entrepreneurship and participatory
     politics." This is absolutely true: commons-based production requires
     infrastructure investments that commoners themselves cannot provide,
     at least, not as individuals or a members of small and fractious
     voluntary networks. The implication (which I don't think is anywhere clearly
     stated in the book) is that we need collective investments in order
     to stimulate forms of growth that are very different from those seen under
     Neoliberal Informationalism. We need a government capable of shaping an
     environment in which Commons-friendly investments will be possible.
     Yet so far, not a single state has emerged as a reliable partner. I'm
     curious: How do you feel about this today, Michel (and Vasilis),
     after the difficulties that the FLOK project encountered in Ecuador, in
     the attempt to generate exactly such a Partner State Approach?

I think it is definitely premature to have any national government, to
fully take up such a transformational policy and to transform itself
for it. But that does not mean that no prefigurative actions can be

In our customary annual review,
we point to two trends, one is what is happening at the local level:


<4. Cities and Countries of the Commons

The highlight for the P2P Foundation in 2014, was the invitation by
three Ecuadorian institutions, i.e. the FLOKSociety.org project, to
create transition policies and proposals to create a social knowledge
economy in that country. It resulted in a [7]Commons Transition
Plan and more than 18 separate legislative proposals. The transition
plan is the first ever transition plan to be focused around the
commons, and historically important even though the project
itself [8]seems stalled at the nation-state level. But more local
pilot projects, like the plan for open agricultural machinery in the
poor district of Sigchos, under the leadership of mayor Mario Andino,
is progressing, with the help for example of Kate Swade of Shared

But if nation-state transitions seems premature, there is a lot
happening at the city level.

A breakthrough is undoubtedly the framework, co-developed
by [9]Christian Iaione, called the [10]Bologna Regulation for the
Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons, which has reportedly been
copied by 40 other Italian cities. [11]Co-Mantua is one of the
examples of such projects. Italy is generally a very mature country for
commons initiatives, and Michel Briand, of the pioneering collaborative
city of Brest in France, has calculated there may be more than 100,000
urban commons projects in France alone.

Of great interest as well are the innovative territorial strategies for
distributed fabrication such as the Barcelona Fab City project, see
the[12]Barcelona 5.0 Plan.

For more information about commons-oriented transitions, see
commonstransitions.org .

Of utmost importance is of course also the experience in
the [14]Autonomy Region Rojava, as an impressive example of local and
multicultural democracy, recently described as a 'DIY Revolution' in
Roar Magazine >

The second trend is the likely coming to power of Podemos and Syriza.
Whatever the difficulties they will face, whatever mistakes they will
make and sabotage they will face, they will shake things up. I believe
there is a significant opportunity there to create a dialogue and
mutual learning, between the traditional reformist and statist
approaches, and the new commons approaches.

One of the things I have been thinking, or rather 'dreaming' about, is
the creation of 'Commons Transitions Circles', i.e. pluralistic circles
of progressive commons-oriented activists, who would act to open the
minds of the more traditional statist left, towards the new potential
opened up by commons approaches.

OK, go to go for now, I'll try to the remainder separately

     The problems that our civilization faces are vast. The extension of
     commons-based peer production from the software to manufacturing and
     energy production does suggest a path forward. But support for it, in
     the form of something like a Partner State, can only be generated
     from a far broader civil-society movement than we have today. Such a
     movement is being called into existence by the rising awareness that the
     current form of development is literally a dead end. One one hand, it is
     important to nurture this movement (and ourselves, as parts of it)
     with pragmatic principles of hope, of the kind provided by experiments
     with Commons-based peer production. On the other, it's necessary to
     cultivate a very lucid of what's actually happening in society, not to paint
     an apocalyptic picture but just to identify the really existing
     obstacles.  That kind of analysis is often lacking on the postmodern left. You
     could have used a little more Trotsky and Mandel, imho.

     I think that civil-society movements have a tremendous amount to
     learn from experiments with peer production, and therefore, from the
     reflections in the last third of this book. However, I don't think any
     of this will go anywhere without a more realistic assessment of the
     forces currently in play. A broad movement needs to know both what to
     ask for and what to create, in view of pushing the really existing
     political-economic system towards a fundamental structural change.
     That means clearly facing the structure and power of corporate monopoly
     capital in its transnational form. I feel you have dispatched that issue
     too quickly and on that level, the book could definitely be improved.
     Actually, a careful read of this book has left me with the desire to
     rewrite parts of it, while keeping others intact - which I guess is a
     pretty good outcome for a book that reccomends the use of Peer Production 

     Let me close this long review/letter with one more quote from Bauwens
     and Kostakis, a particularly astute and admirable one:

          "According to Brynjolfsson and McAfee (2011) 'When the changes happen
          faster than expectations and/or institutions can adjust, the transition
          can be cataclysmic.' To avoid such a cataclysm, we arguably need
          political and social mobilization on the regional, national and
          transnational scale, with a political agenda that would transform our
          expectations, our economy, our infrastructures and our institutions
          in the vein of a Commons-oriented political economy."

     I could not agree more.

     best, Brian
     NetworkedLabour mailing list
     NetworkedLabour {AT} lists.contrast.org

   Check out the Commons Transition Plan here
   at: http://en.wiki.floksociety.org/w/Research_Plan
   P2P Foundation: http://p2pfoundation.net  -
   Updates: http://twitter.com/mbauwens;
   #82 on the (En)Rich list: http://enrichlist.org/the-complete-list/


   Visible links

   7. http://p2pfoundation.net/Commons_Transition_Plan
   8. http://p2pfoundation.net/FLOK_Society_Project#Evaluation_by_Michel_Bauwens
   9. http://p2pfoundation.net/Christian_Iaione
  10. http://p2pfoundation.net/Bologna_Regulation_for_the_Care_and_Regeneration_of_Urban_Commons
  11. http://p2pfoundation.net/Co-Mantua
  12. http://p2pfoundation.net/Barcelona_5.0_Plan
  14. http://p2pfoundation.net/Autonomy_Region_Rojava

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