Benjamin Geer on Mon, 7 Mar 2005 23:54:28 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> W/O(C) digest [geer, salucofagos]

On Sun, 6 Mar 2005 20:29:28 +0200,
<> wrote:

> And that you will not
> entertain (as usual)  any "transitional forms" other than those
> expounded by your high priests of the GPL of the CC.

But I will and I do!  See the Open Organizations project
( where our aim is to identify,
catalogue and critique all sorts of transitional forms.  I tend not to
mention them on nettime because I feel as if they fall outside the
scope of this list.

> well isnt the commons just a hang over form the public/private thinking of
> modernity.

It predates modernity; in English law, the Statute of Merton (1235)
recognised rights regarding the use of common lands.  You could see
the idea of the commons, in that context, as characteristic of a
transitional form of society.  Formerly, population density was low
and most land was open for use by anyone, much as it was in North
America before the arrival of Europeans.  The manorial system
introduced private ownership of more and more land, but the obligation
to leave some land for the "commoners" remained, and was only
gradually lost as common lands were enclosed, mainly from the 16th
century onwards.  Seventeenth-century antiauthoritarian political
movements understood this (as described by Christopher Hill in _The
World Turned Upside Down_) but were largely powerless to oppose the
transformation of land into a commodity.

> I am not really interested in the idea of building such a commons within
> capital - one that is free as in speech and not free as in beer.

I think we have to build what we can now, in order to make possible a
transition to a world without capital.

Production can't be cost-free in any economy.  Somehow the producers
need to eat.  But even in a capitalist economy, we can find ways to
support knowledge production so that knowledge can be available as
cheaply as possible.  And in practice, free-as-in-speech tends to mean
very inexpensive.  You can have all of Wikipedia for the cost of the
Internet access needed to download it.

In Argentina, workers are occupying factories and running them as
cooperatives.  In Brazil, landless farmers are occupying land and
farming it cooperatively.  These are spaces that, while they exist
within a capitalist world economy, also implement, to an extent,
another kind of power and other kinds of economic relationships. 
Shouldn't they (and we) also try to create similar spaces for the
production of knowledge?  Maybe all these spaces, taken together,
could be part of the groundwork for transitional forms of society.

> If we have nothing in common, iif for example someone rejects
> the ethics by which another seeks to build a just world why would I want
> them to be able to take what I have in common with others and propertise
> it to turn it back on me inverted  why and for would I want to support
> the process of expropriation that capital seeks to manage and control by
> adding to the commons.

I agree with you.  But this is exactly what the GPL prevents.  It
prevents someone from turning your knowledge into private property and
selling it back to you.

> p. 188 The legal justification of private ownership is
> undermined by the common social nature of production.

Free Software is produced by a common social process, in which the
result is, in effect, not privately owned by anyone.

> (to quote Moglen: "The GPL is a straightforward capitalistic proposition")

I think he's mistaken about that.  See:

"GNU General Public License protects the freedom to use and to
develop, but at the same time creates a strategic collective

> And to live the passage we don't need a licence (a property form or
> contract), we need ethics.

It's true that in a capitalist society, a licence is a contract for
the use of property.  But even when we think about constructing a
non-capitalist world, we need to think about some of the questions
that licences try to answer.  What modes of production and consumption
are acceptable?  Literate societies express their answers to these
questions in written documents: constitutions, charters, laws.  The
GPL encodes a basic ethical principle: you may use what others have
produced, but you may not appropriate it for yourself.  If you add to
it, your production must become part of the collective process of
production; you must share your contribution as the original work was
shared with you.  These are principles that could be part of the basic
normative framework of a non-capitalist society.

> why not experiment with ethics instead of
> property and the contractual form??

That's the focus of my current work, but it's in its very early
stages.  If you hunt around on the Open Organizations project web
site, you'll find it.  If you want to discuss ethics, I invite you to
that project's mailing list, since that discussion is probably
off-topic for nettime.


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