Linked by David Adams on Fri 17th Dec 2004 18:20 UTC, submitted by jeanmarc
Editorial The real heart of open source lies in its potential to be greater than the sum of its parts, the capacity to leverage the talent and abilities of an entire community of developers and users who are striving towards a common goal, according to an editorial at Linux Insider.
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RE: article
by karl on Sat 18th Dec 2004 12:42 UTC

It's unfortunate that the author insisted on potraying the FOSS community model of development as something which Adam Smith was thinking about when he wrote "The Wealth of Nations". Arguably such is better than comparing FOSS with "communism". But both of these interpretations are, well, to put it simply rather baked. FOSS isn't centered around, nor produces any kind of "free market"-at least not in any way positively related to the use of this concept in the context of an american social-economical ideologie. "Free market" is perhaps the second most misused and abused ideological concept next to "democracy".

The fact that no political party-with perhaps the exception of "libertarians", ie. conservative reactionaries, endorses, let alone really desires "free markets" is lost in the patriotic song and dance which celebrates the (American) triumph of "Free markets". But it is not surprising that the author chooses to talk of FOSS as "free markets" at work: after all the very specific historical developement which has led to the current social-political-economical constellation which is currently labeled "free market" is held to be "natural" ie. as in a law of nature, and American, probably due to a mytholigcal cross-association of being-American and being-natural-are the two not synonym?.

It is actually more understanable when someone compares FOSS to "communism". Not because this comparison means anything-but because what FOSS *is* is about as alien as "communism" is to patriotic americans. The fact that FOSS is commensurable with the current social-political-economic constellation, ie. viable as a resource for the purpose of economic exploitation, does not mean that the FOSS community is a "representation" of the (natural laws) "free market". This constellation is unqiuely capable of co-opting *virtually* any and or all kinds coordinated human activity-at least in the short term. That which is not commensurable with outright cooptation becomes the "enemy of the state".

What is interesting about FOSS, however, is that the long term goals of FOSS are not commensurable with "free markets"-unless one understands that the kind of market freedom envisaged in FOSS is a freedom which is radically contrary to that which is meant when one talks about "free markets" in the context of neo-liberal ideology. Saying that it is "radically contrary" is perhaps to weak: when the kind of market freedom embodied by FOSS comes to fruition the kind of "free markets" envisioned by neo-liberal ideology will cease to exist-at least in the context of software development.

The author of the article surely did not mean this kind of market freedom. And Adam Smith could not have, in his wildest dreams, ever imagined something like the FOSS community. Luckily FOSS is not definable in the context american market policies- the FOSS community is not bound to any nation-the FOSS community is perhaps the single most positive development in the context of globalisation-and as such a glaring anomaly, due to the predominance of extremely negative globalisized developments.

The kind of freedom embodied in FOSS is beautiful: it relegates any statements by any members of any national identity mute: what FOSS *is* and will become is subject only to the people who will constitue that community-and most of them will not even speak english;)

The subject of freedom ebodied in the FOSS community is not you or I as individuals-and when one understands this one can also understand the tendency of many who to want to compare it with "communism". In this sense FOSS is uniquely un-american-albeit I would hope that not all Americans worship individualism as the be-all end-all of the political, ie. social, existance. The subject of FOSS is however radically incommensurable with any kind of state control. Anyone who understands this understands why the comparison of FOSS with "communism" and "free markets" is so brain dead. The subject of freedom embodied by FOSS is the community of those empowered by it.

The State can empower itself by embracing FOSS, as is the case in Brazil, but in so doing the State is empowering the citzens-ie. the "community" of FOSS. With the advent of the personal computer "the ownership of the means of production" took on a meaning which hitherto was unknown. FOSS concretizes this freedom-it places the tools, ie. the means of production, in the hands of those who use it-and it does so in such away as to preclude any third party (ie. corporation or the State) from taking this freedom away.

FOSS emodies a confrontation with the definition of private property-at its base it is a reformulation of the concept of property and the conceptualization of property and the consensus about what constitutes property and how the relationship of public-private is understood is the basis of society itself.

I consider myself a member of the FOSS community. At this point in time a large number of fractions wish to co-opt the identity of this community for themselves. But all the vying for identity is rather mute-the FOSS community is not *an* identity-regarless of how one talks about it. We have the pro-this and the anti-that-but regardless of these identifications the copyleft nature of FOSS is a challenge to our societal definitions of property and how the relationship between private and public is understood. This challenge is not dependent upon the wish of some or many to see such as a challenge.

This challenge consists therein that there is no legal or jurisprudence tradition which can adequately cope with copyleft. Inevitably the courts will have to develop a tradition of coping with copyleft and in so doing the understanding of copyright(patens and PROPERTY) will change. Who would have thought that the most successful sustained challenge to the concept of property would have come from a somewhat disgrunteled programmer at Americas most presitigious technical school. And who would have thought that this un-american train of thought would strike a chord of ressonance with people throughout the world.