One I Watch: Michel Bauwens

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Photo: FLOK Society

A mainstay in my OuiShare community, Michel Bauwens, peer-to-peer movement pioneer and founder of the P2P Foundation, remains virtually unknown to my people in the US, despite obvious potential synergy. I think that’s because his presentations are generally complex, more grey than black and white, and he sounds like, well, a French theoretician. Go figure.

My friend Arthur de Grave over at OuiShare interviewed Michel on the status of the transition to a sustainable, generative (vs. extractive) economy. Some excerpts from the English translation:

The value generated by the Commons is still largely captured by capital: by adopting extractive models, large platforms of the sharing economy are engaged in a form of parasitic commercial activity. In the old days, capitalism was a way of allocating resources in a situation of scarcity, but now it is an engineered scarcity system. Our system is completely mad: we pretend that natural resources are endless, and we set artificial barriers around what is abundant in nature, i.e.: creativity and human intelligence….

….It is clear that the transition to a post-capitalist, sustainable economy will not happen overnight, or even in a few years. It is a long process. Some projects which seemed to work well according to a peer-to-peer logic one or two years ago have since become purely capitalistic. This enables them to grow faster. It contrasts with other more open and truly collaborative projects that have chosen to grow more slowly. When one has no money, one takes on “solidarity dynamics”: when one lacks resources, one works with other people. So yes, it can give an impression of a relative stagnation, but I do not worry too much. For this is a major crisis, ecological, social and economic, looming on the horizon. The challenge is to be ready when it breaks out, probably around 2030…..

….This also requires the creation of new legal tools…. A principle like the copyleft, or the opposite, the copysol are interesting, but imperfect as they are too radical in their implications. I want to find a third way, one that would provide a balance between the commercial sphere and the Commons. This is the goal of the work we began around the notion of Peer Production License….

…a cultural shift is needed. Today, Joe Justice [founder of the Wikispeed community] struggles to raise funds, including from ethical finance funds, as Wikispeed does not file patents. The world of responsible finance can not continue to support models that create artificial scarcity….

….The Pirate Party, the European Greens, Podemos, or Syriza have largely embraced this concept of Commons. It is indeed at the core of a new progressive thinking.

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