Peer-To-Peer Politics and its Vision for the Future—Interview With Michel Bauwens

What has P2P to do with politics? Isn’t peer-to-peer related to file sharing and pirated media? As a matter of fact, peer-to-peer is not just a popular set of tools and technologies to easily share and distribute digital content, but it is also a new fascinating study field that analyzes how we could approach our future by working and operating in a collaborative and sharing fashion rather than in a competitive and exploitative one.
This peer-to-peer vision is all centered around the cooperative creation of a truly sustainable future, not based on speculative and unregulated exploitation of natural resources, but on a social dynamic of voluntary spontaneous participation. The overarching goal is the creation of common goods, products and services for local, self-sustainable communities.
As such, the P2P political movement is shaped by open source, local self-reliance and a shared sense of the urgency of exploring and defining sustainable futures and it is made up of tens of thousands of independent, decentralized actors connected by expertise and skill affinity as well as by local projects and endeavours.
On the other hand, the current political economy is based on the fundamental misconception that natural resources are unlimited.
Not only. The same system is also responsible for creating artificial scarcity for potentially abundant cultural resources by leveraging copyright and similar laws to discourage re-use and replication of intellectual works.
This combination of pseudo-abundance and artificial scarcity does two things:
a) it destroys the biosphere and
b) it hampers the nourishing and growth of social innovation and of an open culture.

In a P2P-based society the situation is practically reversed: the limits of natural resources are recognized, and the focus is shifted to the potentially infinite abundance of immaterial resources as the core operating fulcrum.
The peer-to-peer political approach favors vocational work, co-operation and collaborative approaches where individuals operate together to create and distribute value to their peers.
According to Michel Bauwens, the peer-to-peer movement evangelist and publisher of the P2PFoundation web hub, we are approaching times in which our present working and economic paradigms may have to give in to completely new ways of organizing, producing wealth and of relating to each other on this planet.
If you want to understand what peer-to-peer politics are all about, and why a peer-to-peer political system could be a good candidate to potentially replace our present political and economic system in the future, this in-depth video interview I have recently shot with Michel Bauwens, gives you immediate insight into why the present global system of neoliberal capitalism is close to collapsing and why a P2P-based society may be an attractive alternative socio-economic model to consider for the future.


The Importance of a System Based on Creating Value

Michel Bauwens: I wanted to discuss some of the political aspects of peer-to-peer and the Commons.
The first point I want to make is the following and it is a kind of meditation of how do societies change.
The classic left position was that the workers take power, then they change everything and create a new society – this is not exactly the approach of the P2P Foundation.

What I propose is based on the reading of history – which is basically the following:
When the system enters in a crisis, for example the end of the Roman empire, it:
– cannot grow any longer,
– cannot get slaves so easily and it
– turns into some kind of a crisis.

Then the élite within a society will look for solutions and will try to find other ways to create and sustain value.
Within a slave-centered Roman economy, we have some slave owners that create serfs, which were called “coloni”. They re-align themselves to to this new mode of creating value.
Of course, at the bottom you have also a change, because slaves become serfs. They can live on the land, have family, etc…
Societies only change when the old system breaks down and then the new system takes over. Of course that is a complicated historical process, but this is the kind of dynamic I want to explain.
Similarly, today you have:
–  A re-alignment of a section of the capital – which I call a netarctical capital, which enables and empowers social cooperation,
–  the people who work are becoming peer producers and participants in this new system.

This is the importance of people actually having a new system creating value, which out-cooperates and out-competes the classic model of IP proprietary capitalism. This is the seed of a new society, a new way of creating and distributing value.
I see a clear political link between the new way of creating value and the seed form for a new society.
This is one point.