While the developed world is experiencing the 4th industrial revolution, digital technology, and mainly artificial intelligence, Karl Marx would return to London, where his tomb lies, to rewrite “Capital”, his monumental work. For a very simple reason. Because the system of wealth production that he studied and partly admired, before criticizing it, is constantly transforming, but at the same time strengthening.
A Blog Article by Dimitrios Koumparoulis.
With a significant result, a country with a communist political status, China, is today the hottest advocate of the free market system and globalization.
It is also clear, as Paul Mason writes in his book “Postcapitalism”, that we have already entered new ways of production that overturn what we have learned and read to this day.
In 2006, Yochai Benkler, a professor of law at Yale, concluded that the Internet economy was a “new way of production that emerged at the heart of the world’s most developed economies”. Benkler was trying to define the legal framework for the distribution of Open Source products, known as “Creative Commons”. In his book, “The Wealth of the Networks,” Benkler describes the economic forces that undermine intellectual property by creating patterns of communal and non-hierarchical production practices.
First of all, he said, the emergence of cheap computing power and communication networks gave a large number of people the means to produce intellectual products. Today, everyone can have a blog, make and distribute movies, self-publish digital books, and often get a million people together long before the author’s name is known to traditional publishers.
“The result is that this much more people want today can be made by people who interact and interact with each other on a human and social level rather than as members of the market that communicate and interact through the price system”.
This, he argued, causes the development of non-trade mechanisms, such as decentralized actions of individuals and work in a framework of cooperative and voluntary organization.
It generates new forms of participatory economy in which money is absent or not the basic unit of measure of value. Wikipedia is the best example. It is a digital encyclopedia founded in 2001, collectively written and currently has 26 million entries. Twenty-four million people have reported availability to contribute texts or fix existing ones. Twelve thousand are regular recorders and one hundred and forty thousand casual.
Wikipedia has a staff of 208 people. The thousands of authors offer the texts without remuneration. In a questionnaire that was given to them, 71% replied that he did it because he likes the idea of working without pay, while 63% believed that the information should be free. Every month, eight and a half million entries are read, which places Wikipedia in sixth position over Amazon, the most successful online merchant and not only on the planet. According to estimates, if Wikipedia traded its product, its revenue would reach $ 2,800,000,000 a year.
However, Wikipedia does not make a profit. With its strategy, indeed, it has made it almost impossible for anyone else to have economic benefit in this area. And most importantly, it is one of the most valuable sources of information and information, and (so far) has resisted every attempt of censorship, undermining and plundering.
The principle on which Wikipedia is based is the same as GNU and Linux, which have been set up by Open Source developers, but within a sector of mass consumption. When we visit Amazon pages to buy a camera or a book, our choices, which are recorded, also help other users’ choices. In the language of finance, this is a positive “external consequence”, i.e. an unintentional economic gain. The economic impact of the Wikipedia phenomenon was summed up by Benkler as follows: The Internet makes it possible to organize production on decentralized and collaborative structures without using the market and the management hierarchy. Benkler called this kind of production “based on Common Peer Production”. The concept makes good the foundations of the dominant economic theory for good.
At this particular time when it was possible to produce non-market goods and companies, many were quick to make use of it.
As a result, a new economic universe emerges. That’s why the vulgar populism is lurking. Radical changes are his food.
Written by Dimitrios Koumparoulis
Edited by Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: New-Orleans post Katrina 2007, Fairground, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, June 25, 2007 | © Courtesy of Gilbert Mercier/Flickr.