Important new book on sharing economies
May 18th, 2005
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David Bollier blogs about what looks like an important new book:

Code: Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy, edited by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh (MIT Press, 2005), features seminal critiques of online commons by some of the most exciting thinkers in this emerging field: Yochai Benkler, James Boyle, James Love, Tim Hubbard, Paul David, Richard Stallman and Philippe Aigrain – as well as several noted cultural anthropologists like Fred Myers, Anthony Seeger and Marilyn Strathern. (Full disclosure: I am a co-author, with John Clippinger, of an essay in this book, and thrilled to be among the above company.)

Like any interdisciplinary anthology, this collection of essays is eclectic and uneven. Some chapters are more beset by academic jargon than others; some resemble a first-course dish rather than a satisfying meal. That said, Code is a rich and provocative introduction to some very new ways of thinking about economics, digital technologies and the public good. Love and Hubbard, for example, explore the new private, decentralized institutions that can finance the creation of public goods such as P2P music and new drug development. Benkler reprises his important “Coase’s Penguin” essay on the economics of online value-creation beyond markers and managerial hierarchy. Ghosh, a founder of First Monday, a peer-reviewed Internet journal, analyzes “cooking pot markets” whereby people are willing to contribute to a collective “stew” of software code in return for free use of the final “meal.” Paul David looks at the economics of patronage and reputation systems as engines of scientific knowledge.

My friend John Clippinger and I explore how the artificial human identity posited by “free market dogma” – the fiction that we are all rational, utility-maximizing materialists – clashes with some fundamental instincts of all human beings that various evolutionary sciences are now documenting. It turns out that humans love to work and cooperate in communities of trust, and that the atomistic individualism celebrated by neoclassical economics is a gross aberration in the history of our species.

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