by Nick Dyer-Witheford
Summary: This paper makes theoretical propositions to assist conceive an emergent communism, a coming society that is neither capitalist, statist nor anarchic, and the place within it of ‘immaterial labor.’ Marx deemed the cellular form of capitalism to be the commodity, a good produced for exchange between private owners. The cellular form of communism is the common, a good produced to be shared in association. Marx’s circuit of capital traces the metamorphosis of the commodity into money, which commands the acquisition of further resources to be transformed into more commodities. The circuit of the common traces how shared resources generate forms of social cooperation that can coordinate the conversion of further resources into expanded commons. On the basis of the circuit of capital, Marx identified different kinds of capital – mercantile, industrial and financial – unfolding at different historical moments yet together contributing to an overall societal subsumption.
By analogy, we should recognize differing moments in the circuit of the common. These include terrestrial commons (the customary sharing of natural resources in traditional societies); state commons (socialist government, the planner state); and networked commons, (open source software, peer-to-peer networks, grid computing and multiple other socializations of labor intrinsic to high technoscience). Capital today operates as a systemic unity of mercantile, industrial and financial moment, but the commanding point in its contemporary, neoliberal, phase is financial capital. A twenty-first century communism must also be envisioned as a complex unity of terrestrial, state and networked commons, but the strategic and enabling point in this ensemble is the networked commons, which open possibilities for new combinations of planetary planning and autonomous association.
Faculty of Information and Media Studies,