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My view on peer production

By Jakob Rigi, associate professor, Central European University.

I would like to formulate briefly my view on peer production, first introducing in what consists and secondly its implications.

Peer production constitutes the germs of a new mode of production which has the two following major characteristics. 1) The production is an open, collective and collaborative process in which technological know-how is shared. The cooperation is coordinated almost horizontally with a minimum authority for the coordinator. 2) In the realm of distribution the digitally peer produced commons is available for humanity at large regardless of contribution.

Peer production can fully replace capitalism, but only if the two following conditions are met. First, nature, i.e., land is transformed into commons of different global, national, regional and local scales, depending on the resources of particular pieces of land. Second, telecommunication and transportation infrastructure are also transformed into global commons.

« In peer production cooperation is coordinated almost horizontally with a minimum authority for the coordinator »

The fulfilment of these two conditions requires a social revolution that abolishes private ownership over land, and telecommunication and transportation infrastructure, and transform them into commons.

The revolutionary social movements’ major task is to unite around peer production as their alternative to capitalism, and this has the following implications. In one hand, peer production must be not only the ultimate goal of revolutionary social movement but also the form in which they organize their immediate political, cultural and productive practices. The revolutionary practice must be peer produced otherwise it ceases to be revolutionary. On the other hand, the peer produced cultural, political and economic commons need to connect their immediate goals and practices to larger anticapitalist revolutionary social movements and their ultimate goal of abolishing capitalism and replacing it with peer production, and thereby acquire revolutionary character.

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About the Question
How many peers does it take to change a light bulb?

Systems like Linux and websites like Wikipedia are paradigmatic of a particular way of open collaboration known as peer production. Peer producers choose their tasks freely and coordinate their work using open digital platforms. They share the fruits of their labour as part of a global commons, and everyone works according to their abilities and benefits according to their needs.

Is this an emerging form of communism? Or the future of liberal capitalism? Or is it simply a new mode of production? In this blog we want to explore both the benefits and the downsides of such way of working.

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