This is part 7 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, 6.
Pattern 7: Beyond Exclusion
One of the most basic separations capitalism generates is the separation of those who are inside and those who are not. This inside/outside pattern is not a class separation (cf. pattern 6) and it is not only one big separation. It is a structural mechanism of inclusion and exclusion along all possible lines of society: job-owner vs. jobless, rich vs. poor, men vs. women, people of color vs. white people, bosses vs. subordinated, owners of means of production vs. non-owners, members of social security vs. non-members etc. It has to be recognized as a basic structural principle of capitalism: An inclusion of the one side implies an exclusion of the other side. For the individual this means that any personal progress is realized at the expense of others who stagnate or regress.
In general the commons are beyond the mechanism of exclusion. In Free Software, for example, the more active people join a project the faster and the better a goal can be achieved. Here, the relationship between people is not structured by inclusion-exclusion mechanisms, but by an inclusive reciprocity (Meretz 2012). The maintainer of a project tries to include as many active people as possible, strives for a creative atmosphere, and tries to solve conflicts in a way, that as many people as possible can follow the “rough consensus” and the “running code”.
If a consensus is not possible the best solution is then a fork: a risky but valid option to test different directions of development. If you look at existing forks (e.g. between KDE and GNOME), then many of them are working closely together or maintain an atmosphere of cooperation. Yes, there are other examples of fights against one another. But these non-productive forks are mainly due to alienated interests playing an important role. Oracle tried to implement a command and control regime after having bought OpenOffice as part of the Sun package. The fork to LibreOffice by many important developers was an act of self-defense and self-determination to maintain their environment of Selbstentfaltung. They don’t want to go back into the old “labor mode” of development (cf. pattern 5).
While capitalism is structurally based on exclusion mechanisms, commons-based peer production generally creates and advances inclusion.