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 (Towards a New Reconfiguration Among the State, Civil Society and the Market) image

Review A

Reviewer: Jakob Rigi

Title announces a reconfiguration between state, civil society and market.

To start with this is not an academic essay, i.e. a description –analysis of an existing empirical field but a description of a program for change, which is to a great extent projective and speculative. However, this is by no means a weakness as the author tries, though not clearly and coherently, to describe the speculative aspects as extensions of social practices which currently only exist as relatively marginal practices .

Bauwens declared goal is to outline the general aspects of a program for transition from capitalism of a type of social economy. This is a bold and timely undertaking, thus commendable.

However, the description suffers from the following major weaknesses:

  1. It is not well structured, full of repetitions; arguments concerning the same topics and concepts are unnecessarily scattered in the different places. There is no clear and fluent story line within and between different sections. It is clear that the themes and concepts that he picks up all belong to the same family. Yet, Bauwens does not make it adequately clear how one theme/concept is articulated and to next one and to the whole. The ordering of themes seems to be accidental than following a certain logic, though the logic is there. He needs to spell it out more clearly.
  2. Bauwens is theoretically weak. He uses concepts such as value, surplus value, profit, and state in a loose and common place way. He presents them in a way as they are self-evident and not controversial and complex. He does not couch his concepts in special theories of political economy or of the state. He needs to choose one or more of the existing theories of political economy, and state, or present his own theories. The minimum expectation is that he defines the concepts he uses adequately and clearly and uses them consistently through the presentation. He needs to respond to Rigi`s criticism, in tripleC that these categories belong to the capitalist mode of production and cannot be transported to other modes productions. If Bauwnes want to keep these concepts for the period of transition he needs to show how they will operate differently in this period. To argue that they will be different by benefiting people does not answer the question but evades it. The exact question is how will they benefit the people? And why categories which belong to a exploitative system will exist in a period that capitalism is not anymore the dominant mode of production.
  3. Bawuns scarcely credits other authors who have contributed to his main concepts. He does not sufficiently credit D. Kleiner for the program of peer producing common –based cooperatives project, he does not credits Adam Arvidson for the idea of ethical economy, and he neither credits Orsi, Michaledes, and Kostakis for the idea of partner state.
  4. He does not deal with critiques, most notably Rigi and Meretz.
  5. He does not describe the Ecuador`s project, its success and failures, and does not tell us whether this experience can or cannot function as an acid test for his program. Further, he makes hints to two other commoning projects one in Italy (a water project) and one in Canada, Quebec, social acre project, without giving a minimum description of these projects and showing why they are evidences that support viability Bauwens` program.


I am have a good familiarity with the topics that Bauwens is discussing, however, after four readings of the paper I have no full grasp of what is offered . The reason is not the difficulty of topics but the unsystematic and hurried way in which they are presented. A main source of structural confusion is Bauwens historical periodization which in fact also leaves the most vital question for his project, namely how the partner state is created, unanswered. His, explicit periodization consists of three stages: the current capitalism; transition period; and social economy. However, there is another period in Bawens` narrative which is not acknowledged. The transition period, among other things, is marked by the existence of the partner state which is different from the current capitalist state. Yet, Bauwens argues that prefigurative practices are possible in the context of the capitalist state. Hence, the projects in Ecuador and Catalonia, the Italian water project and Canadian social care project that he mentions, peer production and other communing practices are prefiguarative practices of a new society and economy in the context of a predominantly capitalist economic, political and juridical order. Now, such prefugurative practices, according to Bauwens scheme, precede the transition period. Bauwens needs to acknowledge this explicitly. Because dealing, with the capitalist state, which he indeed makes contracts with, the example of Ecuador , must be totally a different matter from dealing with a partner state which in the first place is there to support the expansion of the social economy. They need different programs, though some aspects of these programs may overlap. So I suggest the following structure: Introduction / Concepts / The program for prefigurative practice under capitalism, the minimum program / The program for the transition period, the maximum program.


In the introduction Bauwens needs to clearly separate three phases from each other: the phase of prefigurative practices under the current capitalist economic, political and juridical regimes; the phase of transition; the phase of the fully fledged social economy. Each phase can be succinctly defined (these definitions need to be elaborated in the main bodies of programs). He needs to give clear ideas of differences and overlaps between these three periods. Then, he needs to offer two different programs, one for the advancement and consolidation of prefiguartive social economies within the current capitalist system and the other for the period of transition. In other words he needs to distinguish between a lower period of transition in which the partner state is absent and the capitalist mode of production is dominant, and a higher period of transition in which the partner state exists, and perhaps capitalist mode of production is not dominant anymore. He needs to outline two different programs for each phase. Obviously, the program for the lower phase of transition must prepare the grounds for the emergence of the higher stage of transition.


In the concepts` section Baunwes needs to outline a theory of value, and , define concepts of use value, value, surplus value, “added value” and profit on the one hand and a theory of state on the other. He needs to show how and why these concepts operate differently in his schemes from the ways they operate in a capitalist system. As mentioned he needs to deal with Rig`s critique published in tripleC, 2014. Bauwens also must formulate a theory or at least an adequate concept of state and apply it consistently with required modifications to the capitalist and the partner states.

The program for prefigurative practices under capitalism, the minimum program

In this section he needs to deal with following issues:

  1. Define clearly the relation between the capitalist and commoning economies in the form of transfers of rents and use of commons;
  2. Define the role of the capitalist state in this respect;
  3. Define the ways in which the prefiguratuve practices may lead to the establishment of partner state and thereby the commencement of the maximum program;
  4. Formulate the ways in which the peer-producing cooperatives proposed by D. Kleiner (2010) and reiterated by Bauwens-Kostakis (2014) may advance peer production; In this point deal with Rigi`s and Meretz`s criticism. Describe the significance of PPL in the minimum program and deal with critiques, including Rigi and Meretz;
  5. Outline the conditions under which such cooperatives can enter into contracts with capitalist enterprises in a way that it promotes the commoning economy. This should be backed by analysis, not mere statements of wishes;
  6. Define conditions under which that peer producing cooperative can sign contracts with capitalist state without compromising their own agenda which is the establishing of partner state and the related social economy. This also needs to be backed by analysis. How shall such peer producing cooperatives and the commoning movements protect themselves against the corrupting influences of the capitalist state and the capitalist economy (respond here to Rigi`s criticism 2014). We know that the capitalist corporative state in Europe, mainly with the help of social democracy, is very adept in accommodating some aspects of subversive/progressive social movements but simultaneously colonizing them from inside and degenerating them into tools for the capitalist state and the capitalist economy. The big corporation do the same thing with commons. What are the guarantees that peer producing cooperatives proposed by Kleiner/ Bauwens-Kostakis are not transformed into rent seeking enterprises which exploit the workers? Here, the partnership should not lead to depict it as none capitalist state;
  7. Describe ethical economy under the current capitalist context. Adam Arvidson argues that a set of major corporation are already involved in the ethical economy and this economy is expanding, deal critically with him and describe how your proposal for the ethical economy is different from his description of such an economy;
  8. Bauwens needs to give an adequate description of the case in Ecuador, the successes and failure of his project there. He needs, to test and modify his minimum program in the light of Ecuador`s experience. It is very important that he deals with point of views of the critiques of the Ecuadp`s experience. He hints to them but does not deal with them.

The program for the transition period, the maximum program

I think that social forms of transition period as described by Bauwens can be rearranged under two major subheadings: The Partner State; and, The Forms of Production. Civil society can be integrated in the forms of production. I make recommendations on each.

A: Partner state

  1. Describe the process of the emergence of the partner state and the abolishing of capitalist state must be described. Or will we have two parallel states? Although Bauwens does not make it clear, it is implied by his text, that when we have the partner state the capitalist state does not exist anymore. We simply cannot have two states on one territory (or does Bauwens supposes that we can have?). This means that a precondition for establishing the partner state is that the capitalist state is already abolished. Then, who and how will abolish the existing capitalist state? What kind of political movements and political processes will abolish the capitalist state? What are the forces behind these processes? Does this abolishing require a social revolution? If so what will be the relation between the commoning economic practices and the subversive social movements in the prefugritave phase of the communing practices?
  2. Prove the necessity of partner state from the point of view of transition.
  3. Describe the partner state : i. What is the form of power and who exercise it (is the state a state of particular classes?); ii. What are the legal and institutional forms of such a state?; iii. What are its functions? Compare all these three aspects with similar three aspects in peer production, and say to what extent and why these aspects may converge with or diverge from those in peer production? Can politics of transition be peer produced? If yes, why is it still a state? Is there a class struggle? What is the rule of state in this respect? If politics is peer produced then why the distinction between the state and civil society will continue to exist? Why can politics not be a assimilated into the civil society? If it can be assimilated then what is the need for a state?

Most aspects, though not all, of the descriptions are already in the program, but I think they need to be collected in one place and under the heading of partner state and systematized. This will help to avoid repetitions on the one hand and have a better grasp of the gaps in the existing text and feel them, on the other. Here, Bauwens needs to credit others who have contributed to the concept of the partner state.

B: Forms of production (different modes of production).

  1.  The first things to be done is to identify and describe different forms of production: peer production; capitalist production, and other forms. Here, cultural production must be included in production as well the reproduction of human beings.
  2. Describe which mode of production is dominant one and which are subordinated ones.
  3. Describe mechanisms of articulation between these modes of production, either through exchange (barter or market) or through the regulatory role of the state, laws, taxation, subsidies, etc.
  4. Describe the domains of economy that capitalism may be still be prevalent in and explain why?
  5. Describe the form of ownership of two major resources, land meaning nature in general and technological infrastructure. Are they still owned by capitalists? Or are they owned by the state, or by networks of peer producing communities? The collectivisation of these two resources is essential for the peer production to be become the dominant mode of production. And such a collectivisation requires the expropriation of capitalists. First, nature cannot be duplicated. A piece of land and its resources is either owned collectively or privately. Second, technological infrastructure can be duplicated. Some people in the current peer production movement entertain the idea to produce parallel infrastructure. But, this in addition to cost a lot of resources will be very damaging ecologically. Therefore, the collectivisation of current infrastructure which requires the expropriation of capitalists is necessary. This expropriation is also morally legitimate, because these infrastructure is nothing but the accumulated labour of millions workers of different generations on the one and the general intellect of humanity on the other. Describe who will expropriate capitalists and who will own and administrate these resources?
  6. Put your concept of ethical economy within this over all description of the interaction between different modes of production and argue how is it different from the ethical economy in the prefigurative phase.
  7. Describe, how the categories of market , value, surplus value, and profit are different here than in the capitalist economy. Here, deal with Rigi`s critique published in tripleC.

To sum up: Bauwens` undertaking is essential, but it needs revisions.

As this is not an article but two programs, though conflated with each other, I suggest that JoPP should publish it as programs for transition but at the same time solicit comments from people who might have different visions or be critical of Bauwens` vision. In this way the journal opens a debate for the transition from capitalism to a different mode of production.

One minor point: Bauwens argues that GPL is liberal, because, Richard Stallman has identified himself or the program as liberal and the anthropologist Coleman has also characterized it as liberal. I do think that GPL characteristic must be analysed independently from Stallman`s personal political orientation. As Rigi (2014) argued GPL abolishes information rent and indeed offer the general form of property for a peer producing society. Bauwens needs to deal with his arguments. If Coleman has an argument that support her claim please reiterate it, otherwise her mere statement that peer production is a liberal movement is not enough for depicting GPL as liberal.


Meretz, S. (2014) Socialist licenses? A rejoinder to Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis. TripleC, 12, 362–365. Retrieved from

Rigi, J. (2014) The coming revolution of peer production and revolutionary cooperatives. A response to Michel Bauwens, Vasilis Kostakis and Stefan Meretz. TripleC, 12, 390–404. Retrieved from

Review B

Reviewer: George Dafermos

1. Is the subject matter relevant?
Yes, it is highly relevant, as it explores the potentiality of the emergence of a post-capitalist formation enabled by the commons, in which the antagonisms between the State, civil society and market forces are resolved in a way that ensures their common benefit.

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?
Although the author’s treatment of the subject is extremely interesting, he does not address well-known criticisms of several arguments he makes: for example, Rigi’s (2014) and Meretz’s (2014) critique of the Peer Production License.

3. Are there any noticeable problems with the author’s means of validating assumptions or making judgements?
I do not find any serious problems, but the main arguments could have been strengthened by a more careful exposition.

4. Is the article well written?
Its argumentation, though not convoluted, would benefit from a more clear and better-structured presentation.

5. Are there portions of the article that you recommend be shortened, excised or expanded?
As I write above, I recommend that the critiques of the Peer Production License and of the concept of the Partner State be addressed in the revised version and that its main arguments be presented in a way that is better-structured and easier to follow.