Review of “Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto” of Michel Bauwens

In an unprecedented way Michel Bauwens hijacks the commons. While the commons practiced deliberative and participative democracy in the high middle ages, that weakened from the 16th century, we do not find any defense of alternatives for our faltering representative democracy in “Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto” of Michel Bauwens. No mentioning of the most recent experiments in deliberative democracy defended by David Van Reybroeck, applied in Ireland and Iceland. The “citizens’ assemblies” as proposed by Marcin Gerwin and adhered by Extinction Rebellion or “Red de Democratie” of Manu Claeys for the moderates do not figure in his picture of the future. P2P dominates his discourse.

One thing that strikes you when you start reading, is vagueness. Expressions as: “philosophers like Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas”, “approach is related to the theorization of ‘revolutionary reforms’ by Andre Gorz”, “The State (capitalized) in the Hegelian notion is the guarantor of the common good”… He also refers to some authors that excel in vagueness themselves: David Boillier, De Angelis, Hardt and Negri and Hegel of course, the philosopher of absolute idealism.

The wide spectrum of authors referenced surprises. Bauwens worked as a cybrarian, this might explain it, but there are to many extremes. Maybe the author wants to hook on as many readers as possible, a kind of eclectic universalism. Mentioning does not necessarily mean he backs the many points of view he presents, though it is suggested and for all he is not clear about it. Karl Marx for the leftist (who didn’t read him), the Doninicans Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas for the Christian community, David Graeber for the anarchists, Schumpeter for the libertarians, Jeremy Rifkin for the utopians…

When Michel Bauwens refers to valuable research he mistreats the work of the researchers, cherry picking and stretching the meaning of concepts until they become meaningless.

He summarizes his entire program in four axioms:

“1. P2P is a type of social relations in human networks, where participants have maximum freedom to connect.

2. P2P is also a technological infrastructure that makes the generalization and scaling up of such relations possible.

3. P2P thus enables a new mode of production and property.

4. P2P creates the potential for a transition to an economy that can be generative towards people and nature.” (Michel Bauwens et al., 2019, p. 1)

In the first two axioms he puts the world upside down. In what sociological, psychological or communication theory is P2P a type of “social relations” in human networks? Only in Bauwen’s brand new theory, there is no other one. P2P is just an internet protocol that can be used to exchange files and data, like email is a protocol to exchange messages, computer mediated communication. Using the P2P protocol to exchange files you do not need to have any relation with nobody, just pick a file out of the computer generated list and you have it. That is the depersonalisation effect all kind of computer mediated communication has.

In point 2. he claims that P2P is also a technological infrastructure. It is not. Without internet there would not be P2P, Internet is the technological infrastructure that makes P2P possible. So we have two points with no meaning in the real world. Since point 3. and 4. are deducted from 1. and 2. The whole theory is pointless. It is not only pointless it also useless. The far most important argument which makes the “P2P turned into commons” exercise completely irrelevant is the need for f2f communication when building commons. Bauwens claims to rely on Ostroms theory of common pool resources and collective action, he just stretches it a little by making it open access. But talking about the empirical base of collective action Ostrom says:

“A behavioral commitment to theory grounded in empirically inquiry is essential to understand such basic questions as why face-to-face communication so consistently enhances cooperation in social dilemmas or how structural variables facilitate or impede effective collective action” (Elinor Ostrom, 1998, p.1)

(…)

“Yet, consistent, strong, and replicable findings are achieved when individuals are allowed to communicate face to face.” (Id. p. 6)

So computer mediated communication does not support building commons, only f2f communication. You can not build trust by computer mediated communiction, because you can not solve ambiguity without f2f communication (Daniël Verhoeven, 2006).

Formal model for rational choice theory of collective action, proposed by Elinor Ostrom (Elinor Ostrom, 1998, p. 15),.Copyright American Political Science Review, Copy for educational purposes only.

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Introduction into Defining the Commons

This is the working version of first chapter of an essay “Obstacles and opportunities for ‘sustainable’ commons using Internet”. Please do not quote. The next chapter will be published when it is finished.

Fuzziness about the commons paradigm

A first step in the process towards interdisciplinary research on the commons is cleaning up the terminological fuzziness about them. For historians like Susan Jane Buck Cox and Tine De Moor, and for political economists like Elinor Oström, the commons are well defined as a historical phenomenon or as “Common Pool Resources” and “Institutions of Collective Action”. In many other disciplines the term is used for the air, the seas etc. that are in principle collective property to all creatures living on earth.

 

Large-scale open access resources such as oceans, the air we are breathing, are, also referred to as “global commons”. This is confusing of course, because what is lacking to the “global commons” is institutionalisation and self-governance, qualities the initial historical commons clearly had and that were analysed in the common pool resources by Elinor Oström. Read More

The return of Occupy London: this time it’s truly political

Author: Adam Parsons

Occupy is back in London, UK, with a renewed focus on politics and an ambitious vision: to galvanise a mass movement for real democracy and establish a huge People’s Assembly to debate a list of specific demands for radical political reform.

This week, stalwarts of the Occupy Democracy campaign in Britain are continuing to stand their ground in Parliament Square. The heavy-handed police crackdown and evictions may have scuppered much of the plans for peaceful and creative demonstrations, but the re-emergence of the Occupy movement is a welcome sight in an increasingly unequal, stressed and disaffected city of London.

The goal of the new Occupy campaign is laudable and significant: to direct energy from current single issue struggles into “a critical mass that can radically challenge the corrupt unrepresentative [political] system”. Initially staged in solidarity with Hong Kong’s ongoing civil disobedience campaign, the aptly-named #TarpaulinRevolution aimed to galvanise a mass movement for real democracy by transforming the Square into a civic space where activists can re-envision and rethink the fundamentals of our society, not only through protest activity but also with a programme of talks, workshops, community assemblies, music and theatre.

The original call to action makes a compelling case as to why the British political system is unable to deal with the consequences of a social crisis it helped to create. Citing the entrenched problems of the UK’s growing ranks of homeless, hungry and unemployed, it calls on all movements that have opposed the government’s anti-democratic policies to come and join the occupation. “The problem is bigger than the Tories and their austerity program”, it states. “The problem is with our whole democratic system.”

Occupy_London_-_Public_Assembly

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Edward Snowden interview and the works of Laura Poitras

Virtual interview with Edward Snowden on 11/10/2014

Some quotes:

“When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.”

According to Edward Snowden, people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services like Dropbox, Facebook, and Google.

“We’re talking about encryption. We’re talking about dropping programs that are hostile to privacy. For example, SpiderOak? Get rid of Dropbox, it doesn’t support encryption, it doesn’t protect your private files. And use competitors like SpiderOak, that do the same exact service but they protect the content of what you’re sharing.”

About the government:

“We can have secret programs. You know, the American people don’t have to know the name of every individual that’s under investigation. We don’t need to know the technical details of absolutely every program in the intelligence community. But we do have to know the bare and broad outlines of the powers our government is claiming … and how they affect us and how they affect our relationships overseas. Because if we don’t, we are no longer citizens, we no longer have leaders. We’re subjects, and we have rulers.”

The works of Laura Poitras

Trailer of Citizenfour: Edward Snowden Documentary

You will find the other documantaries of Laura Poitras here

Four Things the Left Should Learn from Kobane

The Disorder Of Things

The Kurdish town of Kobanê has recently become the centre of a geopolitical conflagration that may well change the course of Middle Eastern politics. After months of silence over the threat faced by Kurds from ISIS, the world is now finally watching, even if the ‘international community’ remains conspicuously quiet. However, many Western responses, be it from scholars, journos or activists, have somewhat predictably retracted into recycled critiques of US and UK imperialism, often at the expense of missing what is truly exceptional and noteworthy in recent developments. So, in the style of contemporary leftist listicles, here are four things we can and should learn from events in and around Kobanê.

1. It’s Time to Question the West’s Fixation on ISIS

If Barack Obama, David Cameron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are to be believed, the ‘savagery’ of ‘fundamentalism’ is the primary focus of NATO involvement in Syria. Notably, many left…

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Occupy Hong Kong and the contradictions of neoliberalism in China

Author: Miguel, translated by Oscar Ten Houten. Check out the original in Spanish here

a_hk_29_sept_17

“It’s 10 a.m. in Hong Kong, 6 hours later than Madrid. When I woke up this morning, the occupation was still there. I can almost see it clearly from my window. It’s the one in the district of Mong Kok (on the mainland, Kowloon), because there are two more occupations active on the “island”, which is Hong Kong proper. One is in Admiralty, near the government offices. Another is in Cause Way Bay, one of the congested commercial districts. The barricades cutting traffic there are still standing. They are simple barricades, made of fences and some street furniture. Some of them have been erected by police themselves about 500 meters from the zones where people use to gather. I also see the dozens of buses that have been stranded in the area since Sunday. By now they have become walls of democracy, on which people have attached all kinds of messages. The banners and signs on Nathan Road Avenue and the people sitting on the driveway for the last five days are a unique scene in the city. This is one of the busiest arteries. They are unbearable unless the masses of people and the urban ant nest generate an addictive curiosity in you, as is my case. The pollution there is usually around level 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, these days it’s down to 4 or 5. I can finally walk or cycle without having to fight with heavy traffic. The streets are ours, for now, and me, I also feel part of local issues, no matter that I’m an immigrant.

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On the Internet Ungovernance Forum 4-5 september in Istanbul

Author: Daniël Verhoeven

Snowdon_at_IUF

Origin of the forum

 

For the first time since its establishment in 2006 the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) of ICANN [1] is paralleled with a protest forum, the Internet Ungovernance Forum.

Internet protests all over the world until now were addressed against national states and international organizations wanting to limit internet freedom and net neutrality or against those state and non-state services breaching privacy on the net, but this time a critique is formulated against the Internet governance itself by the Internet Ungovernance Forum. The announcement stated:

“We see that at IGF the most urgent problems of the Internet do not get the right attention. Due to the “multi-stakeholderism” format, the main perpetrators of many of the Internet’s problems, governments and corporations, are getting representation in IGF they don’t deserve. Given these circumstances, we decided to take initiative to defend the Internet as we know it and to create a space to raise the voices of civil society initiatives, activists and common people.”

 

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