The following is a must hear trialogue between Michel Bauwens, John Restakis, Dmitry Kleiner, hosted and presented by KMO of C-Realm as podcast which has been published and transcripted by P2P foundation by 2014.
The Web is made of Internet. If web represents the virtual/informational domain, internet will be the physical/material network that enables web to work. In the information realm where people are represented again as informational entity, social networks emerge in the form of centralized services, federated services or through peer to peer tools & platforms. Nevertheless, there is no much social participation in the underlying physical network infrastructure & are dominantly owned by big governments where state power is authoritative, or by big corporations & work by utilizing several small cabling and ISP providers locally totally under the state or corporate control. This fundamentally demeans evolution of democracy & creates a huge digital divide.
Eventually, the Internet & Web will become the place of privileged class while severing rest of the populace - exclusion from access, availability and affordability. Today the cost of network bandwidth has come down less than what a man could spend for daily food. This happened because of the centralized scaling strategy of the neo-liberal economy. This has become extractive and seek only profit, further spinning : Corporate & State - Social Control.
On the other hand, independent: developers, hackers, researchers, students, academia, civil societies, communities has contributed much to the evolution of Internet & Web technology. This has created a economic platform where data & information are available at minimal cost. The focus is on making both available for everyone. Thus it sure has a socio-economic dynamics involved. However, this is not whole of the population that participate in Web critically. There are numerous other problems regarding its functioning & characteristics. Such systems are already been appropriated economically by powerful business and states. This will continue as long as the underlying communication infrastructure is owned by them.
The remaining populace involve in material transaction and depend on it heavily, struggle for their rights through unionisation and mutual cooperation. This mostly happened as a emergent response to the inherent failure of Capitalism & Neo-liberalism that believes heavily on ideal intelligence, competitive advantage, & greed. While the real problems need to be solved are more than prioritized and celebrated individualistic perspective. It has proved the only liberty alone cannot drive us to a sustainable life. What we need is solidarity based on common need, while still respecting individual liberty, promulgating critical thinking, courage and confidence.
We all know the fact, that we cannot sustain without material interaction. Can we ?
However, we also have realized that immaterial, for example information network platforms like Web has also kindled us to participate much more in democracy, politics etc… Thus it is evident that every immaterial interaction we make ultimately brings us closer to satisfying or fulfilling our material needs. The struggle and pressure are now increasingly happening at both the streets as well as equivalents online. Web as has already become a platform for democracy, where states' and corporates' are another player. In general this influence on virtual world by reality and vice versa has created a continuous loop, where still the material control were appropriated by the powerful, the elite ultimately controlling the economy, a.k.a as a science it reflects to people as a “bought science”.
Thus whether we speak about immaterial or material interaction with people, we need to forge a way to practice economic democracy through federation of commons & communities progressing towards sustainable development and way of living. At the verge of geo-climatic crisis, bio-diversity disaster, calamity, such understanding has become much more vital than ever. Atleast for how we have to free ourselves from consumer attitude and become produsers where every commons peers & networked collective - could be both producer of some good or service as well as consumer of a good or service - where social production & solidarity is more valued than competition & greed.
Crisis & Economics
Present day economic are constructed or bought, based upon crisis cycles, with defaulting reason to human nature. As it sounds miserable, even in theory, reality is much more worse from social to individual scale. After the adaptation of Capitalism or Neoliberal economic strategies globally, which is already networked so tightly - people have started to become more sensitive and responding to its adverse effects.
This video is not for learning, it is for unlearning. One shall able to understand how cycles are played and who controls those cycles. It takes a very simplistic view and fractalizes over and over, believing to achieve prosperity. In reality the frequency of which humans experience austerity is becoming more and more. The video clearly explains how the current system views debt and credit as a means of flow of money that determines the growth of economy. Observing closely, we can see if the economy is ridden with such debt cycles where nobody knows whether it can be controlled or not, how would one gain the courage to ask for credits to boost productivity or consumption ? Only those who have become credit worthy within the short term debt cycle who be further accelerated for more credit - thus there will be another group where decelerated from credit worthiness or anti-credit worthy. But infact, they are the ones who has to be supported by the system.
One who sees this, will criticize that neither the government nor the central bank must control the market. This is where free market and neo-liberalism comes into picture. But again such theories would assume that the sellers and buyers; lenders and borrowers are intelligent agents, taking intelligent decisions. Here information symmetry is being assumed. Those who knows more information, will eventually dominate the ignorant, and at that very moment asymmetry rises. Thus it leads to information bifurcation in society. Those who knows how to acquire information might able to exploit information. Again leading to crisis cycles from a ideal non-competitive market but only dominated, monopolized market. The dominant gets to decide the price, distribution mechanism, and the consumption pattern itself. Those who controls gains more control.
Thus neither controlled economy nor the uncontrolled economy - where money is considered as the only key part of economics which again depend upon several other parameters that are assumed in theory are very dynamic in reality and thus what expected out of paper based models will not work out. Thus theoretical models are not enough for proper operation. This necessitates to model and predict how would economy function in future, from the data collected from people at individual level. This has created a market itself for data/information. Since data are connected with one another, this network of information gives great wealth & power to those who controls it. Furthermore, the asymmetry is much more exploited when data silos are built, paywalled, & used for capital generation.
“ The theories that I (and others) helped develop explained why unfettered markets often not only do not lead to social justice, but do not even produce efficient outcomes. Interestingly, there has been no intellectual challenge to the refutation of Adam Smith's invisible hand: individuals and firms, in the pursuit of their self-interest, are not necessarily, or in general, led as if by an invisible hand, to economic efficiency.“
“ I hope to show that Information Economics represents a fundamental change in the prevailing paradigm within economics. Problems of information are central to understanding not only market economics but also political economy. I explore some of the implications of information imperfections for political processes. “
One can clearly observe from the video, that “human nature” is being used as a reason to legitimize inequality in the current economic systems. Inequality in Economy will manifest as social inequality leading to injustices shoved by the master to the slave, or by the monopoly to people, by the State to its Citizens, Capitalist to the Workers, Ruling class/Elite class to the poor… etc. Upon closer introspection, one can see that the dependency is perpetuating with such economic construct and have been established in bidirectional way.
The seller needs people to buy, and capitalist who owns means of production needs cheap labour to create goods and distribute it through the seller in the market. On the whole, it is probably that goods made from the labour of the workers are the ones who consume them back. Capitalist depend heavily on the labourers to create goods. With only machines lying around, intelligent/creative process could not be applied without labour contribution. But to make profit, huge profit, one must sell more, and may sell it at cost determined based on competition, where consumers and sellers/capitalists play major role, without considering the labourers. Because, the labourers who once produced the good or part of the good are now consuming, based on the remuneration/salary/wage provided by the capitalist who in-turn got it as profit from market sales.
Until labourers are ignorant and do not learn the necessary administration and managerial skills required to self organize and implement democratic management and ownership - this dependency lock-in and thereby dependency perpetuation will continue, leading to increased in crisis and outbreak/unrest frequencies. Again thus both capitalist and the labour unions will come to a common ground temporarily only.
Where are Cooperatives ?
To be critical about cooperatives, one must understand that cooperatives are not the silver bullet to solve the class struggle. It has always helped proletarians to do a little significant more than engaing in Unions and Striking. It enabled workers to organize among themselves orienting towards seizing the current dominant means of production. One can understand this critique by reading Rosa Luxemburg's article on Cooperatives, Union & Democracy.