Peer to Peer Economies and the Revolution in Values

Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications

Published on ZNet, by Michel Bauwens, July 20, 2009.

I: The Economics of P2P:

Peer-to-peer social processes are bottom-up processes whereby agents in a distributed network can freely engage in common pursuits, without external coercion, i.e. ‘permissionlessly’ undertake actions and relations. This requires not just ‘decentralized’ systems, but ‘distributed’ systems, through which individuals can cooperate. Distributed networks do have constraints, forms of internal coercion, that are the conditions for the group to operate, and these may be embedded in the technical infrastructure, the social norms, or legal rules. Despite these caveats, we have a remarkable social dynamic here, one that is based on voluntary participation in the creation of common goods, which are made universally available to all. 

Peer-to-peer processes are emerging in literally every cranny of social life, and have been extensively documented in the 9,000+ pages of documentation at the Foundation for Peer to Peer Alternatives, and many other places on the Web.

P2P social processes more precisely engender:

  • 1) peer production: wherever a group of peers decides to engage in the production of a common resource
  • 2) peer governance: the means they choose to govern themselves while they engage in such a pursuit
  • 3) peer property: the institutional and legal framework they choose to guard against the private appropriation of this common work; this usually takes the form of non-exclusionary forms of universal common property, as defined through the General Public License, some forms of Creative Commons licenses, or similar derivatives.

Peer governance combines free self-aggregation of individual skills and universally broadcast tasks, processes for communal validation of excellence within the broader pool of input, and defence mechanisms against private appropriation and sabotage. Peer governance differs from hierarchical allocation of resources, from allocation through the market, and even from democracy, as these are all mechanisms for dealing with scarce resources. Peer governance essentially aims at, and often succeeds in, making sure that no formal ‘representative group’ can take decisions separate from the community of peer producers.

These new property forms have at least three characteristics: … (full long text).

(The writer is a researcher of technology, culture and business innovation. He is a former entrepreneur and the founder of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives, which is based in Thailand. Bauwens works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property).

More info: The Foundation for P2P Alternatives:

Link: The Reimagining Society Project on Google Web-search.

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