RE: [OPE] Peer production and abundance

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Fri Jan 08 2010 - 08:54:59 EST

I would agree that the production of GPL material does depend on those producing it having both free time and some other revenue stream.
I do not agree that it depends on the exploitation of other workers though.

In some cases it is work done in the evenings, and in others it is work done in academic institutions or government laboratories.

In the case of a programmer employed by Nokia who writes software for peer to peer file sharing in their evenings, this does not depend
on the exploitation of workers elsewhere. The Nokia worker will have been paid for the labour power that they sell to Nokia during the day
and that labour power will have been exploited by Nokia. If the programmer choses to go and help Pirate Bay during the evenings
as voluntary work, this is not itself dependent on their explitation by Nokia. No surplus value from the work at Nokia goes into
the production of the free software..
They do need an income to live, but the free software is produced out of their unpaid time and is thus a tapping of a potential surplus
product that could only be extracted by capital as a result of a longer working day. Since the working week is legally limited,
it is rather the constraints placed on capitalist exploitation by the limitation of the working day that allow the production of the
free software.
In the case of software produced in academic institutions that is placed in the public domain, like the BSD Unix operating system,
and many Unix utilities developed for that, then that labour was paid for out of taxes, and placement in the public domain
was a condition of the tax funded work ( those conditions on US grants have I believe been changed in a way less favourable
to the public domain).
The model of software funded out of tax revenues seems to be one that could be retained under socialism, but the free and voluntary
work done is spare time is also something that would presumably be encouraged in the future.

From: [] On Behalf Of Paul Bullock []
Sent: Friday, January 08, 2010 1:17 PM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: Re: [OPE] Peer production and abundance

Where marginal costs of providing some software is effectively zero, but operations require purchase of other tied/ joint commodities I don't see where this sort of innovation leads us to 'socialism'.. it becomes a marketing issue.

Furthermore if the production of much software/ sourceware is actually done in the free time of the professional middle classes within richer states then this is predicated on the exploitation of workers labour power elsewhere, ie my free time is someone elses surplus labour time performed. So we havn't got out of the capital relation.

The abolition of large scale private property and the formulation of basic democratic social planning is the essential prerequisite.

Paul Bullock

----- Original Message -----
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list<>
Sent: Thursday, January 07, 2010 7:07 PM
Subject: RE: [OPE] Peer production and abundance

> I think there is merit to the argument that the 'open source' mode of
> production conflicts with and potentially undermines capitalist property
> relations. But a systematic theory of this mode of production has yet to
> be formulated.

Hi Dave Z:

Well, I would call it a type (or form or pattern or system) of production, not a
'mode of production". Use of the latter expression is unnecessarily confusing, imo.

> If the 'open source' mode of production is to become the dominant mode,
> the question arises: what share of the total output of an economy could
> actually be produced in this way?

Except for the caveat which I referred to above, that's a good question.

In solidarity, Jerry


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Received on Fri Jan 8 08:56:37 2010

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