Monday, February 27, 2006

Communal Shareholding and the relationship of P2P

Michel Bauwens takes us further in this explorative journey into better understanding the true nature, characteristics and potential value of peer-to-peer (P2P). In particular, communal shareholding and the relationship of P2P with the concept of a gift economy are explored. Finally, relationships between authority, hierarchy and effective forms of P2P and participation are analyzed providing fascinating insight into the relations between hierarchy, co-operation and autonomy. As he concludes: "The use-value created by P2P projects is generated through free cooperation, without coercion toward the producers, and users have free access to the resulting use value. The legal infrastructure that we have described above creates an 'Information Commons.' "
P2P and the Other Modes of Production The framework of our comparison is the Relational Models theory of anthropologist Alan Page Fiske, discussed in his major work Structures of Social Life.
The fact that modes of production are embedded in inter-subjective relations -- that is, characterized by particular relational combinations -- provides the necessary framework to distinguish P2P.
According to Fiske, there are four basic types of inter-subjective dynamics, valid across time and space, in his own words: "People use just four fundamental models for organizing most aspects of sociality most of the time in all cultures. These models are" :

  1. Communal Sharing

  2. Authority Ranking

  3. Equality Matching

  4. and Market Pricing
Communal Sharing (CS) is a relationship in which people treat some dyad or group as equivalent and undifferentiated with respect to the social domain in question. Examples are people using a commons (CS with respect to utilization of the particular resource), people intensely in love (CS with respect to their social selves), people who "ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee" (CS with respect to shared suffering and common well-being), or people who kill any member of an enemy group indiscriminately in retaliation for an attack (CS with respect to collective responsibility).
In Authority Ranking (AR) people have asymmetric positions in a linear hierarchy in which subordinates defer, respect, and (perhaps) obey, while superiors take precedence and take pastoral responsibility for subordinates. Examples are:
  1. military hierarchies (AR in decisions, control, and many other matters)

  2. ancestor worship (AR in offerings of filial piety and expectations of protection and enforcement of norms)

  3. monotheistic religious moralities (AR for the definition of right and wrong by commandments or will of God)

  4. social status systems such as class or ethnic rankings (AR with respect to social value of identities), and rankings such as sports team standings (AR with respect to prestige).
AR relationships are based on perceptions of legitimate asymmetries, not coercive power; they are not inherently exploitative (although they may involve power or cause harm).
In Equality Matching (EM) relationships people keep track of the balance or difference among participants and know what would be required to restore balance. Common manifestations are:
  1. turn-taking

  2. one-person one-vote elections

  3. equal share distributions

  4. and vengeance based on an-eye-for-an-eye, a-tooth-for-a-tooth
Examples include:
  1. sports and games (EM with respect to the rules, procedures, equipment and terrain)

  2. baby-sitting co-ops (EM with respect to the exchange of child care)

  3. and restitution in-kind (EM with respect to righting a wrong).
Market Pricing relationships are oriented to socially meaningful ratios or rates such as prices, wages, interest, rents, tithes, or cost-benefit analyses. Money need not be the medium, and Market Pricing relationships need not be selfish, competitive, maximizing, or materialistic -- any of the four models may exhibit any of these features. Market Pricing relationships are not necessarily individualistic; a family may be the CS or AR unit running a business that operates in an MP mode with respect to other enterprises.
Examples are:
  1. property that can be bought, sold, or treated as investment capital (land or objects as MP)

  2. marriages organized contractually or implicitly in terms of costs and benefits to the partners

  3. prostitution (sex as MP)

  4. bureaucratic cost-effectiveness standards (resource allocation as MP)

  5. utilitarian judgments about the greatest good for the greatest number, or standards of equity in judging entitlements in proportion to contributions (two forms of morality as MP)

  6. considerations of "spending time" efficiently, and estimates of expected kill ratios (aggression as MP).
Every type of society or civilization is a mixture of these four modes, but it can plausibly be argued that one mode is always dominant and imprints the other subservient modes. Historically, the first dominant mode was kinship or lineage based reciprocity, the so-called tribal gift economies.
The key relational aspect was 'belonging'. Gifts created obligations and relations beyond the next of kin, creating a wider field of exchange. Agricultural or feudal-type societies were dominated by authority ranking, that is, they were based on allegiance. Finally, it is clear that the capitalist economy is dominated by market pricing.
Thanks again to Robin Good

My earlier post is : HERE


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