Applied Policies on ‘Common Goods’: Results, Experiences and Future Goals

Short report of an open event and a set of seminars on common goods, peer-to-peer modes of production and cooperative economy, organised by the Nicos Poulantzas Institute in Athens from 8 to 13 November.

At the beginning of November Michel Bauwens (Founder of P2P Foundation) came to Athens for a work-visit organised by Nicos Poulantzas Institute and supported by transform! and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
The opening event took place on Monday, 10 November, in the Cultural Centre of Athens, with Michel Bauwens as speaker. The lecture was entitled “Applied Policies on ‘Common Goods’: Results, Experiences and Future Goals”. In his lecture, M. Bauwens made a detailed presentation of the current developments in common goods area which constantly expands. Moreover, he emphasized the role of peer-to-peer modes of production in the emergence of a new type of society, beyond the market and the state. By peer-to-peer production is meant the production of goods and services, but mainly of value, by self-managed communities which function under the principle of mutual coordination with absolute absence of centralized control. 
As M. Bauwens mentioned, there are various examples to prove the dynamic of the peer-to-peer production, as well as their productive and distributive efficiency. From digital common goods and services to the production and distribution of goods as agricultural seeds, or open design and research, peer-to-peer production is a reality which can set the pattern for the transformation of the economic system. 
Besides, peer-to-peer production offers a lot of advantages, including human motivations different than these of paid employment, lower cost of production etc. Cooperation instead of competition, self fulfilment, sense of belonging and creativity are some of the main motivations for commoners that lead to certain advantages as increased integration of innovation, faster creation of value etc. These advantages have already been highly appreciated by the big corporations and transnational financial groups that are attempting a new type of enclosure of these new common goods category.
Peer-to-peer modes of production create new conditions in the production and distribution of value. People create value in use which then is captured by the private enterprises. As a result of this development, M. Bauwens stressed that we now face a contradiction between the emerging peer-to-peer modes of production with the existing relations of production. This leading in a crisis of the existing model, in the Marxian concept. A progressive solution in this crisis necessarily calls for a restructuring in the economic and political sphere.
For that reason, we need a reverse in the established pattern of burdening societies with market externalities. A good proposal on this direction could be to establish a new type of IP license based in reciprocity/mutuality. Furthermore, a general equivalent of the value produced by open cooperatives is needed and this could be found in already applied practices, such as Indigo – a Catalan cooperative. Cooperatives that limit reciprocity only to their members, while they tend to function under the rule of markets cannot be included in the concept of peer-to-peer production. Finally, the state transformation is crucial in the transition into a peer-to-peer economy. The state should be transformed into an “open code” state with new institutions that could support the economy of the commons.
As a conclusion, M. Bauwens claimed that we need to overcome the established concept of “privatization – regulation – renationalization” in order to achieve a new coordination between public sector and the sector of common goods. In this context, the experience of the FLOK Project – for the creation of a pattern of public / commons partnership and free knowledge economy – which had been recently applied in Ecuador, should be thoroughly examined. 

Five seminars took place covering two different, but complementary aims, enriched by the contribution of more researchers from the teams of FLOK project or P2P Foundation. Two seminars under the titles: 1. “Cooperative economy: implemented international examples and future perspectives in Greece”, and 2. “Open access to knowledge”, were mainly addressed to grass root groups, research institutions (universities, state research agents), movements etc. and had as main goals the sharing of documentation, networking and creation of social coalitions. Three more were co-organised by the Institute and the related to the subject SYRIZA departments under the following titles: 1. “Space, environment, energy: applied ‘common’ policies”, 2. “Open data and free software in public administration”, and 3. “Local Administration: Cooperation and regional economic development. The cooperative city”. Specific policy proposals and exchange of information on policy level were the main aims of those workshops.