Jean Lievens: Michel Bauwens on the democratization of the means of monetization — commons licenses that demand reciprocity!

Architecture, Culture, Design, Economics/True Cost, Money, P2P / Panarchy
Jean Lievens
Jean Lievens

Michel Bauwens on the democratization of the means of monetization

In this new work, Michel continues to propose powerful ideas that not only demonstrate his capacity for synthesis, but more importantly, his capacity to articulate ideas that facilitate points of convergence between broad sectors that are sympathetic to the ideas of production based on the commons.

Michel Bauwens sent us a work that will soon be published, in which he summarizes and clarifies what he sees as the possible evolution of the means of monetization in a world in which the P2P mode of production has gained strength.

[D]emonetization will be a good thing in many sectors under a regime of civic domination, we will also need new forms of monetization, and restore the feedback loop between value creation and value capture.

Michel Bauwens
Michel Bauwens

Netarchic capitalism, the direct result of recentralization, has established a new model of value, in which capital extracts it as an intermediary in the creation of platforms for P2P interaction between individuals, gradually renouncing its role of directly controlling information production.

So, cognitive capitalism can be said to be suffering a severe “value crisis,” in which the use value of production grows exponentially, but its exchange value grows linearly, and is almost exclusively captured by capital, giving rise to exacerbated forms of labor exploitation, especially with respect to the new informational proletariat:

It could be said that this creates a sort of “hyper-neoliberalism”… in classical neoliberalism, wages stagnate; in hyper-neoliberalism, salaried workers are replaced by isolated, and mostly precarious, freelancers.

For example, Bauwens cites preliminary studies that indicate that the average hourly wage of “digital workers” doesn’t exceed two dollars an hour, citing as a prototype of this phenomenon aggregation services like TaskRabbit, in which workers can’t communicate with each other, unlike clients.

The light at the end of the tunnel

In spite of the hard reality of netarchic capitalism, Bauwens continues to highlight its transitional aspect, reminding us that this is still a period in which we’re seeing modalities of production P2P be born in all spheres of life, and of special relevance for the central topic of the essay, the creation of P2P currencies. This phase could be defined by the “value crisis,” but also is characterized by an increase in monetary diversity.

In this sense, Bauwens celebrates the growth of Bitcoin, but not for the virtues of the currency itself, since he believes it doesn’t offer a fundamental solution to the value crisis that affects the global system of netarchic capitalism; still, he sees it as an important milestone in the monetary history of mankind, demonstrating that alternative currency can constructed in a scalable way, and as the beginning of an evolution towards multiple crypto-currencies, some of which “will integrate different social values in their protocols.”

From “communism of capital” to “venture communism”

In his efforts to imagine the transition to a model in which the relations of production are not in contradiction to the evolution of the mode of production, Bauwens launches a very concrete proposal as a basic institutional mechanism for a system of political economy in which the logic of voluntary contribution that works on production based on the commons is recognized and compensated.

For this, he calls our attention to the fact that “In today’s free software economy, open licences enable logic of the commons, or technically, (each contributes what he/she can, each uses what is needed), but created a paradox: the more “communistic” the licenses, the more capitalistic the economy becomes, since it specifically allows large for-profit enterprises to realize the value of the commons in the sphere of capital accumulation. Hence, ironically, the growth of a ‘communism of capital.’”

Because of this, Bauwens proposes the replacement of the “communist” licenses with others, based on the requirement of reciprocity, such that the use of a peer production license would require a contribution to the commons in compensation to its use free, at least from for-profit companies, to allow those who work in the commons under the P2P logic to capture a part of the exchange value.

This kind of license would reinforce the autonomous initiatives of P2P producers to create market entities that would create added value based on the commons, allowing us to capture still more exchange value generated through the production of rival goods.

Among that type of initiative, Bauwens highlights the “venture communist” model proposed by Dmytri Kleiner, in which cooperatives raise capital that allows them to acquire means of production. But those means of production would belong to the commons, and be rented to the producers. At the same time, the income generated by the rent would be shared between workers, which would amount to a basic salary.

Evolution at the macro level

None of these changes at the micro level would survive without important changes at the macroeconomic level, and this is where we see the relevance of Michel’s tireless work to analytically lead the way to preparing a new consensus in which broad social and ideological sectors fit.

Because it is starting from this consensus that the foundation could be laid in practice for “the maturation of monetary biodiversity regulated by a Partner State, as well as by others models of global governance that are difficult to predict at this stage.”

In this system, local and regional currencies would co-exist with business-to-business credit systems, which, organized cooperatively, and globalized in the form of phyles, would permit scaling of these currencies and credit systems, such as currently happens with Bitcoin, facilitating the capture of exchange value by P2P producers without sacrificing economies of scope, which enables globalization of the small.

To conclude, Michel discusses the role in the system of new “open-book accounting” systems, which would allow producers to register their contributions to be subjected to review by their peers, and post hoc redistribution of value co-created by them based on the statutes of the cooperatives: “These contributions would remain de-commodified, but the promise of fair value distribution would preclude any exploitation of free labor.”

Conclusion

In this new work, Michel continues to propose powerful ideas that not only demonstrate his capacity for synthesis, but more importantly, his capacity to articulate ideas that facilitate points of convergence between broad sectors that are sympathetic to the ideas of production based on the commons.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)