Michel Bauwens recently spoke at the Harvard Berkman Center to give his big-picture analysis of the economic and social transition now underway. The hour-long video of his talk provides a clear explanation for why peer production is flourishing and out-competing conventional business models and markets. It’s all part of an epochal shift in how value is created, argues Bauwens.
Citing major transitions of the past – from nomadic communities to clans; from clans to class-based, pre-capitalist societies; from pre-capitalism to capitalism – Bauwens said, “We’re in a period of history in which a marginal system of value is moving to the center of value-creation.”
For those who don't have an hour to watch the video, below, a review of Michel's key points:
Unlike traditional leftist visions of revolution, which require a social movement to seize state power and then install another system, the emerging world of peer production is based on another vision: build an alternative economy outside the circuits of capitalism, or at least insulated from its exploitation, and then develop its own functionalities and moral authority.
The point is not so much to displace or smash capitalism, he said, as to make the commons the new, more compelling “attractor” for activities that create value. Rather than try to use private labor to produce value, which is then captured by privately owned corporations and sold in markets based on artificially created scarcity, the peer production economy proposes a new model: abundance based on an ethic of sufficiency.
Instead of allocating surplus value through the market or hierarchical systems, the peer production economy creates value through open, voluntary contributions and “massive mutual coordination,” said Bauwens. The goal is to create commons through social systems and the sharing of resources.