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What is peer-to-peer (P2P)?

P2P culture is a post-capitalist socioeconomic framework which includes but transcends capitalism. It encompasses many varieties of open and closed, public and private, for-profit and not-for-profit, hierarchical and egalitarian associations (and hybrids of these).

Early P2P theory drew from experience gained in creating distributed computer networks and distributed organizations that developed open source computer software. These distributed systems of computers and programmers emphasized the role of individual peers–network nodes or people of roughly similar capability–which coordinated or negotiated their activity among themselves with little or no central authority or control. From those information system origins the application of P2P principles expanded to include many other kinds of distributed teams, organizations and activities.

P2P principles emphasize cooperation, openness, fairness, transparency, information symmetry, sustainability, subsidiarity, accountability, quality, and innovation motivated by a variety of human needs and values negotiated among peers.

IMO P2P principles and relations can operate in almost any economic or political theater if two specific rules are respected. P2P Capitalism, P2P Marxism, P2P Anarchy, or P2P whatever, must make every effort to respect:

 

The relative degree to which these fundamental principles are followed is the relative degree of P2P-correctness, regardless of any other characteristics of a P2P model. However, the simplicity of these two rules is deceptive because they have many corollaries and implications. And they don’t solve the problem of competing or conflicting rights and interests among peers–we must still have some form of contract, due process, conflict resolution, etc. for that.

In an ideology-agnostic nutshell, you might say the P2P framework is about cooperative individualism (this is precisely how Michel Bauwens describes peerism in “The Political Economy of Peer Production“).

A P2P peer is a mostly self-directed individual, voluntarily consenting to various cooperative social or economic contracts or arrangements. A person’s success at being a peer and engaging with others as peers may depend largely on how well they absorb the ideas of intersubjectivity and enlightened self-interest.

Be sure to check out our Facebook P2P Group, Michel Bauwens’ Facebook page, and the Foundation for P2P Alternatives website for many more P2P related topics.

Poor Richard

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