[iDC] The Ethics of Participation

keith at thememorybank.co.uk keith at thememorybank.co.uk
Fri Jan 5 04:57:18 EST 2007


Thanks for this. (Thanks too to Brian for his intriguing post). I think,
from what have been able to say briefly here, that there would be
substantial agreement between us on several matters. These would include
the importance of considering reciprocity as part of a set of what Polanyi
called principles of integration. I am currently editing a book of a
workshop on Polanyi, the crisis of neoliberalism and economic
anthropology,.  Market and Society: The Great Transformation today. The
issues you raise here engage the participants alos. Jean-Michel Servet
makes a powerful case for updating reciprocity, redistribution and market
in ways that evoke your comments about revenue-sharing.

I have a particular beef about the idea of a gift economy which is a
travesty of Marcel Mauss's intention when writing the 'essai sur le don'.
His aim there was to expose the contrast between self-interested commerce
and the free gift as bourgeois ideology, insisting rather that the archaic
gift and modern markets, like economic institutions everywhere, combine
individual freedom and social obligation, self-interest and concern for
others in what is in effect the universal human condition. He also
preferred to deal with the social facts as given rather than with
analytical abstractions.

I would not wish to hijack Trebor's stimulating post into a discussion of
the anthropological classics. And I am grateful to you and Brian for
reminding me of more recent writers. But it does raise the question of
whether the ethics of participation can be usefully discussed independently
of social context or without explicit reference to some of the main
categories that have usefully organize thinking about the topic.


From: Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2007 08:01:00 +0700


I completely agree with this. In my own work, and following the relational
grammar of Alan Page Fiske, I distinguish between the reciprocity-based gift
economy (Equality Matching), the tributary economies based on hierarchy
(Authority Ranking), Market Pricing exchange, and finally, non-reciprocal
Communal Shareholding, of which contemporaty peer production is an

Viewing peer production as such is much more productive than what is in my
opinion the misguided equation of it with the gift economy. There is no
direct reciprocity in Linux or Wikipedia, only an indirect exchange of
different value streams (use value, expression, reputation, sharing
pleasure, etc...)

But that doesn't mean that it has to be monopolistic or totalitarian either,
rather, the 3 other modes will co-exist. However, it can be argued that
non-reciprocal sharing is in many senses ethically superior. Instead of tit
for tat neutral exchange of the market, and the obligation-creating gift,
both of which involve direct calculations of mutual benefit, there is the
natural tendency to share, and an open return on that sharing, where
calculation of direct benefit is secondary. Instead of the win-loose context
of tributary economies, or the win-win (theoretically neutral) context of
market exchange, you have a context, where the very act of giving/sharing,
implies already the return, where the needs of the individual and the
community are not seen as different or opposed, but as co-existing in the
same act.

The call for revenue-sharing, as mechanism for reciprocity, can therefore be
misguided. Better solution is to keep the non-reciprocal logicl of peer
production, and to reserve the revenue-sharing aspects for the derivate
scarce services, and to use part of that revenue, to create an ecology of
support for the non-reciprocal sharing, as is done by the free software


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