This is part 6 of a weekly series of articles to appear in the journal Critical Studies in Peer Production (CSPP). In the series I try to describe analytical patterns developed by the Oekonux Project since over ten years of research on Free Software and commons-based peer production. Please visit the introducing part for the background. Already released patterns: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Pattern 6: Beyond Classes
Capitalism is a society of separations. Buying vs. selling, producing vs. consuming, labor vs. capital, concrete vs. abstract labor, use value vs. exchange value, private production vs. social distribution etc. Capitalist development is driven by the contradictions between these separated parts. Among them, labor and capital is only one contradiction, but it seems to be the most relevant one. A person seems to be defined by being a labor seller or a labor buyer, a worker or capitalist. However, in fact labor and capital are not properties of individuals, but opposite societal functions like all other separations capitalism generates.
Therefore, it is not true that only one side of the various separations represents the general or progressive one. On the contrary, both parts of a separation depend on each other. Labor produces capital, and capital creates labor. It is an alienated cycle of a permanent reproduction of the capitalist forms. Thus, both sides of these separations, e.g. labor and capital, are necessary functions of capitalism. The so called antagonism of labor and capital is in fact a purely immanent mode of historical development of capitalism. The working class does not represent emancipation, by no means.
Free Software and peer production in general is not recreating classes, it is rather beyond that mode. It represents a germ form (cf. pattern 10) of a new mode of production which generally is not based on separations, but on integrating different personal needs, behavior and wishes as a powerful source of development. Exploitation does not exist, because selling and buying of labor does not exist and money can only play a role in retro games about antiquated societies called “capitalism”.
Selbstentfaltung as a free developing human being is the source of societal transition towards a free society, not the class adherence.