P2P and Marxism III — The limits of P2P

In the previous parts of this article, peer-to-peer production was presented as a radical new way of organising production and different from other forms of collaboration. Instead of following the instructions of a top-down hierarchy working in a competitive environment, which is the norm in most businesses, people who felt passionately about a particular project got together on a voluntary basis to create something that was available for anybody who wishes to use it, as long as they did not turn it into private property. That is, it remains in the commons.

They are involved in what has become known as distributed production – the aggregation of many small and geographically dispersed inputs coordinated through the internet. Solar production on individual houses, linked up through a ?smart grid? maximizing the efficiency, is an example of actual physical production organised in distributed production. It is also becoming a factor to be counted with. In Germany, on 25 May 2012, a Saturday, solar power reached a new record. It feed as much as 20 nuclear power stations into the German power grid, enough to satisfy 50% of the midday electricity demand.

The paradox is that the precondition for distributed production is centralisation, whether it be in the form of factories producing laptops or giant server halls or an integrated electricity grid where a decision has been taken to adopt a standard that allows the different parts of the grid to communicate with each other.

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P2P and Marxism II ? How does P2P collaboration differ from other forms of collaboration?

Collaboration has existed before P2P production and many different forms continue to exist side by side with it. It could therefore be easy to dismiss P2P as nothing new under the sun. Yet that would be a mistake. Several things make P2P unique. In order to understand that it is worth comparing with other forms of collaboration.

The most common form of collaboration, outside the private sphere, exists at any workplace. Simply in order to get the work done people must collaborate. Superficially, it would be easy to identify the difference between P2P and other collaboration on the work place by saying that collaboration at a workplace is based upon bosses deciding and ?creating? a team. Formally speaking that is true, but in practice, collaboration at most workplaces is, like P2P, more of a bottom up collaboration.

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P2P & Marxism — the death of an old model

In order to change society it is necessary to understand it. Especially new phenomena that can give a hint as to what is in the making. One important new trend has been peer-to peer production, a new voluntary form of cooperation whose products are shared freely. Based on the previous discussion on this website, here is another contribution to the discussion.

The peer-to-peer movement has been accused of utopianism. While it is true that some pretty far fetched ideas exist in the movement (as in any movement), it is absurd to accuse something which has been developing by leaps and bounds in the past 10-15 years of being utopian.

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