[iDC] Marx, "Reproduction, " Play, the Steam Mill, and the Internet

Michael Bauwens michelsub2003 at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 29 11:53:14 UTC 2009

I'm coming very late to this debate, being late in following
up this particular mailbox.

However, I'ld like to partly agree, and thus disagree, with both Christian and

Yes, we still live in a capitalist society, and yes, it subsumes internet

Yes, there is an attention  logic at play, and both capital and labour
adapt and use this logic in different ways.

I think we do have to accept that we are  no longer in a mercantile, nor
industrial capitalist logic, but in a third phase of cognitive capitalism.

My thesis is that the marxist thesis, of a organized working class taking power
and then changing society, has been discredited. Not only because it didn't
happen in the last 200 years, but because it is based on a misreading of

In the previous transitions, revolutions were always the end point of a long
process of reconfiguration. Hence, both slave owners and slaves morphed to
serfdom as domain lords and serfs, first as an individual strategy to survive
the collapse of the Roman slave economy, and thus in paradoxical ways saving
and strenghtening the system; and both nobility and working strata of feudal
society morphed to capitalist relations and practices, with the same effect.
The point is that these changes, initially seen as a way out for the old
system, turned out to be more productive overall, and eventually it made no
longer sense to keep the old social order, which precluded this higher productivity
to occur on a general scale.

We know that state socialism as it historically developed, lost the race
against the capitalist system, and furthermore, it offers absolutely no incentive,
neither for the ruling class, who loses everything, and for the workers, who
loose their freedom in a new class system dominated by a new coordinator class.

But what if we observe that, not socialism is occuring, but a new
hyperproductive system, in which both the capital and managerial class, and the
producing class, see different advantages to move towards. A section of capital
becomes netarchical, and starts monetizing these practices. It appears at first
hand to create a new economic sector, but it is embraced also by the producing
classes, for different reasons.
The point is, while it originally appears to strengthen the
capitalist totality, it at the same time creates post-capitalist logics, such
as the direct production for value, forms of participatory governance that are
practiced outside corporate formats, and commons oriented property formats.
Commons-based peer production, the sharing platforms, and crowdsourcing are
three main forms of this mutual adaptation.
The paradox is that it both creates new forms of capitalism,
and new forms of post-capitalism. It is both immanent and transcendent, and we
have to resist any either/or logic but rather see them both occurring at once.
While apparently saving capitalism, as Adam Arvidsson and I
have argued, it also creates a formidable  value crisis, and the return on assets has already declined by 75% since
the onset of cognitive capitalism.
So what could possible strategies be:
1)      Strengthen
these new social practices and the autonomy of peer producing communities
2)      Differentiate
between those practices of the netarchical segment that enclose, and those that
create more opportunity for sharing and commons based practices. Support the
latter ,fight the former.
3)      Wherever
we can, create independent infrastructures, based on open standards and
protocols, that can be operated in a distributed fashion, not just for ICT but
in every area of productive endeavour, to create alternatives that are
commons-based, rather than requiring netarchically owned corporate platforms
4)      Create
new economic formats that are maximally consistent with the new peer to peer
ethics and social demands and support those entrepreneurial formats that
overturn capitalist income-orientation to social-outcome orientation. These entrepreneurial
forces are on our side!
5)      Create
alliances with the social forces of the decaying former economic system, such
as farmers and workers movements, and link up with their mutualist traditions
6)      Create
alliances with the environmental and social justice movements to overturn the
present insanity of pseudo-material abundance and artificial immaterial
scarcity, to realize natural abundance in a steady state economy, with free
cultural, scientific and knowledge exchange in global commons communities
7)      Create
alliances with anticapitalist and a-capitalist neotraditional movements around
commonly shared immaterial values, thus finding a connection with the vast
majority of Southern populations
8)      Pressure
state and public authorities to change their corporate welfare orientation to a
primacy of civil society and a partner state-based support infrastructure
towards the new productive modalities.
How could any nostalgic return to socialist strategies
result in any positive outcome after 2 centuries of failure?
How could a orientation towards attention logics that are
subsumed to capital bring any fundamental progress?
Why not inspire ourselves by the real process of change, as
it occurred in two previous phase transitions?
If this were true, then we need to be careful about
time-scales and recognize that we are not entirely ready for a phase transition,
but are at the same time rapidly approaching it.
My hypothesis is that we can expect the next Kondratieff
upsurge, which should ‘normally start’ 8 to 15 years after the sudden system
shock that we are witnessing, to be used to move peer production from emergent
phenomena, to parity and from there to phase transition.
This timing is quite consistent with the expectation of
Immanuel Wallerstein and others.
Capitalism is not dead, but it is dying, and as infinite
growth is not compatible with a limited natural world, it has to die. Though it
could conceivably be replaced by something worse, and though it is unlikely
that 19th century socialist scenarios will come to fruition, the
phase transition towards a fully commons-orientated mode of peer production, is
a strong historical opportunity, and we should not idly stand by while it is occurring.
----- Original Message ----
> From: Christian Fuchs <christian.fuchs at sbg.ac.at>
> To: Michael H Goldhaber <michael at goldhaber.org>; idc <idc at mailman.thing.net>
> Sent: Sat, October 17, 2009 8:15:29 AM
> Subject: Re: [iDC] Marx, "Reproduction, " Play, the Steam Mill, and the Internet
> Dear Michael,
> I do not think that what you and others term the attention economy 
> brings about a post-capitalist society or post-capitalist class system.
> I agree that attention is an important resource that can be accumulated 
> on the Internet. With "web 2.0" technologies, it is easy, cheap, and 
> quick to produce information today and to make it available on the 
> Internet. But it is far more difficult to draw the attention of others 
> towards that information.
> But the attention economy is subsumed under the capitalist economy.


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