Post-Capitalist Strategy of the P2P Foundation

Michel BauwensA lot of people want to „overcome“ capitalism, but what do they mean by it? Michel Bauwens from the P2P Foundation gave a short note on that topic, which could be interesting to discuss here: Is it really post-capitalist (also see the critique on reciprocity licences)? Here’s the text:

A note on the post-capitalist strategy of the P2P Foundation

Following Kojin Karatini, we agree that the present system is based on a trinity of capital-state-nation, which represents an integration of three modes of exchange. Capital represents a particular market form based on the endless accumulation of capital, the state is the entity that keeps the system together through coercion, law and redistribution (Karatini calls this function ‘rule and protect’), and the nation is the ‘imagined community’ that is the locus of the survival of community and reciprocity. A post-capitalist strategy must necessarily overcome all three in a new integration.

Overcoming the capitalist form of the market, means interfering in capital accumulation. This can and must be done in two ways. First of all, the capitalist market requires labor as a commodity, and therefore, overcoming capitalism means refusing to work for capitalism as commodity labor. Hence the stress on open cooperativism, i.e. commoners work for themselves, in democratic associations and create autonomous livelihoods around our commons, protected from value capture through membranes such as reciprocity-based licenses. Measures like the basic income also substantially remove the compulsion for workers to have to sell their labor power, and would strengthen the capacity to create alternative economic entities. However, we must proceed with the reality that exists today, and create our own funding and resource allocation mechanisms. The second way is to withdraw from capitalism and capital accumulation is by removing our cooperation as consumers. Without workers as producers and workers as consumers, there can be no reproduction of capital. The latter means the invention and creation of new forms of consumption that are derived from the creation of open cooperatives. Workers mutualize their consumption in pooled market forms such as community-supported agriculture and the like. To the degree that we systematically organize new provisioning and consumption systems, outside of the sphere of capital, we undermine the reproduction of capital and capital accumulation. In addition, we create ‘transvestment’ vehicles, which allow the acceptance of capital, as disciplined by the new commons and market forms that we develop through peer production, this creates a flow of value from the system of capital to the system of the commons economy. Faced with a crisis of capital accumulation, it is entirely realistic to expect a stream of value which seeks a place in the commons economy. Instead of the cooptation of the commons economy by capital, in the form of the netarchical capitalist platforms which capture value from the commons, we coopt capital inside the commons, and subject it to its rules.

I believe we can achieve similar effects with the state. Our strategy for a ‘partner state’ is to ‘commonify’ the state. We strive to transform state functions so that they actually empower and enable the autonomy of the citizens as individuals and groups, to create common resources, instead of being ‘consumers’ of state services. We abolish the separation of the state from the population by increasing democratic and participatory decision-making. We consider the public service as a commons, giving every citizen and resident the right to work in the commonified public services. But we don’t ‘withdraw’ completely from the state because we need common good institutions for everyone in a given territory, which creates equal capacities for every citizen to contribute to the commons and the ethical market organizations.

In another article we have argued that the capital-state-nation trinity is no longer able to balance global capitalism, because it has created a very powerful transnational financial class, which is able to move resources globally and discipline the state and the nations that dare rebalance it. Our answer is to create trans-local and trans-national civic and economic entities that can eventually rebalance and counter the power of the transnational capitalist class. This is realistic because peer production technologies create global open design communities that mutualize knowledge on a global scale, and because we can create global and ethical market organizations around them. Even as we produce locally, we organize trans-local productive communities. These trans-local productive communities are no longer bound by the nation-state and project and require forms of governance that can operate on the global scale. In this way, they also transcend the power of the nation-state. As we explained in our strategy regarding the global capitalist market, these forces can operate against the accumulation of capital at the global level, and create global counter-hegemonic power. In all likelihood, this will create global governance mechanisms and institutions that are no longer inter-national, but trans-national, but are not transnational capitalism.

In conclusion, our aim is to replace the capital-state-nation trinity, which is no longer functioning, and to avoid global domination of private capital, by creating a new integrative trinity, Commons-Ethical Market- Partner State, that is not confined to the nation-state level, but can operate trans-nationally and transcend the older and dysfunctional trinity. Through these processes, citizens develop cosmopolitan subjectivities but also allegiance to local and trans-national commons-oriented communities of value creation and value distribution.

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