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Future Economies Reading Group

March 2021: Commons-based peer production

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How do new technologies enable new social relations? Can the commons, first enclosed and captured at the onset of capitalism, be the center of a transition to a new, more just mode of production? This month we'll study commons-based peer production, a system where contributors create shared resources through open, participatory processes. Think Wikipedia or open-source software but for everything. In commons-based peer production, "light" things, like ideas, travel quickly around the world while "heavy" things, like food and raw resources, come from nearby.

But merely theorizing a new mode of production without an understanding of how it develops from real productive forces is utopian. We'll also read a brief essay by McKenzie Wark introducing her theory of the Vectoralist Class. She argues that the dominant mode of production in the world today might not be capitalism but something new where the powerful classes maintain control over flows of information.

Finally, we'll look at the real failure of the open-source software movement to accomplish transformative political aims. While commons like Wikipedia can inspire us to imagine new ways of organizing our society, it's clear that enclosure of the commons is an ongoing process that must be resisted continually.

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