Chapter 21 - Peer Production and Social Change

Mathieu O'Neil, Sebastien Broca

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines the actions of peer producers who oppose the social harms of neoliberal capitalism as well as the democratic failures of the centralized state. Is peer production an effective tool for achieving profound and lasting social change? We first consider the political manifestations of peer production, understood in terms of autonomous self-direction, participatory and direct forms of democracy, member governance, and the collective resolution of issues. We then turn to its economic aspects. Many radical thinkers have depicted peer production as the germ of a post-capitalist future. We critically engage with this vision, arguing that peer production projects are often absorbed within neoliberal digital capitalism. Inside some free and open source projects, financial rewards are rejected on the grounds that they might distort the self-directed means of determining the relative value of project goals. Not only does this rejection reproduce class and gender inequalities, it also hinders the evolution of the commons into a sustainable mode of production. We conclude that the capacity of peer production to inform a believable alternative depends on peer producers’ capacity to make the commons economy more connected to wider society and more robust, challenging the structural imbalance between what digital capitalism obtains from the commons and what it gives back.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Peer Production
EditorsMathieu O'Neil, Christian Pentzold, Sophie Toupin
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Number of pages14
EditionFirst Edition
ISBN (Print)9781119537106
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Publication series

NameHandbooks in Communication and Media


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