The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
Reviews (A Critical Economic Framework) image

Review A

Reviewer: Johan Söderberg

The topic is relevant, the general plot line is sound (I guess: survey of the field P2P and set in the context of Marxist theory), the language is fine.

The structure of the argument, however, is a mess.

It is only possible to follow the argumentation of the author if the reader is thoroughly familiar with the different positions at hand. New positions and authors from widely divergent traditions are successively brought up, without them having been introduced before, and the authors mentioned before are dropped without the argument returning to them.

This might owe to the purpose of the article not being clearly stated (though indicated as demonstrating the usefulness of Marxism for analyzing P2P), concurrently with a vague or ecumenical reading of what Marxism is (in the beginning, p.4, Polanyi and Graeber are counted in, at the end, p.17, Deleuze and Guattari (!), and everything in-between). If being so inclusive, what is the alternative then to Marxism, this is not clearly specified (neo-classics is mentioned twice as the outside of Marxism, but is that really the alternative to be replaced with the author’s Marxism, that theory is hardly drawn upon by the advocates of P2P?)

The remedy would be to:

1) Narrow down and clearly specify what the article aims to do. State this at the outset.

2) Give a summary of theories about the P2P field, previous attempts to explain it, especially those attempts who draw on Marxism (i.e. oekonux, etc. Bauwens, Kostakis et al are mentioned, but at the very end of the article, it should be a background to the field), and identify what is missing in those accounts that needs to be strengthened with (the author’s branch of) Marxism.

3) Specify what counts in as Marxism, which branch of Marxism that the author is referring to, etc. Treat this under separate headings.

4) Instead of brining in a steady stream of names and writers, the author should focus on a handful, introduce them properly at the beginning and return to them at the end of the discussion.

Review B

Reviewer: Vasilis Kostakis

1. Is the subject matter relevant?

Yes, definitely it is. Such framing has been relatively under-discussed in the literature.

2. Is the treatment of the subject matter intellectually interesting? Are there citations or bodies of literature you think are essential to which the author has not referred?

Yes, the treatment of the subject is intellectually interesting.

Regarding gaps in literature, it strikes me that none of the work of Yochai Benkler, Johan Soderberg, Michel Bauwens and colleagues on peer production is used. Moreover, especially Raul Victor has explicitly written on Marxism and free software: . Furthermore, it might be a good idea to refer to (and frame) the emerging discussion on (blockchain-mediated) open value networks or platform cooperativism as future trends.

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgments?

There is arguably no serious problem. I would suggest that the author explains more what “commonsly” and “outside” mean, as well as re-examines the validity of the following statement: “Karl Polanyi completes the argument, claiming that the economy prior to capitalism was embedded in social and cultural life.”

4. Is the article well written?

I am not a native speaker, but generally language seems to be pretty fine. I found few typos (e.g., “Soviet cholar” or better usage of punctuation marks, e.g., “In the author’s study on the Swedish language version of Wikipedia the ideological formation…”), and the author might want to have another look at this, but I don’t think there are major issues with language. I would also suggest that the author improves the narration of the first paragraph in the “concluding remarks” section.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?

In addition to the propositions made in 3, I think that the concluding remarks could reflect in more detail the discussion that takes place in the above sections. Furthermore, the author could provide a clearer answer to the question of the title.

Review C

Reviewer: Jamie Woodcock

I would recommend publishing a revised version of this paper, see comments below.

This is a very interesting paper that covers a wide range of theoretical perspectives. However, too much of the paper (which is already quite long at 8,500 words excluding references) is spent discussing Marxism and critical theory more broadly, with not enough clear discussion in relation to peer production. The perspectives that are drawn upon (e.g. Terranova, Bauman, Polanyi, Negri, Althusser, Wertkritik, Luxemburg, Mandel, etc etc) are not necessarily coherent and cloud the argument being made.

The discussion of what comprises peer production remains somewhat abstract. At points it is discussed as an emergent outside to capital, or as a “natural economy” (i.e. with characteristics like those preceding capitalism), or as an expression of the autonomy of the working class from capital (i.e the flight from work, social reproduction, etc). A stronger start to the article could include a section on what peer production is. At points Wikipedia, open source software, and other examples are used, but no overall definition is provided (despite links then being made to other concepts). It would appear that these examples are online peer production projects that aim to create a commons, but this could need to be distinguished from other cooperative forms (i.e. autonomous forms of social reproduction that involve quite different dynamics to say Wikipedia). Similarly the distinction between “inside” and “outside” would be better illustrated through examples, as Wikipedia has a different relationship to capital than say open source software (which is increasingly being drawn upon by capitalist enterprises and repackaged and recommodified and so on).

A number of the theoretical claims require further unpacking. For example, the distinction between social useful and socially necessary productive activities is not convincing in its current form. Why does peer production have to be judged in relation to commodity production? Similarly the argument about the wage relation, for example, that:

“Wage labour could thus, behind the backs of the contemporary peer producers, be an ally in the struggle against capital”

This seems to miss an important contribution from Marxism, particularly Autonomism and anti-work politics about how the wage relation would affect peer production. This is quite different to demanding payment for unpaid work (either through a wages for housework type campaign or through universal basic income). Here it is worth considering the problems with the cooperative model under capitalism – of which much has been written – and thinking through more concretely how “outside” peer production is to the capitalist “inside.”

The wide ranging discussion that the article follows could benefit from being narrowed (and perhaps the two points above could provide a focus for the discussion?) and pushing a clearer argument. I would recommend cutting back on much of the literature review type content and introducing a section defining/clarifying peer production.