22C3 - 2.2

22nd Chaos Communication Congress
Private Investigations

Sandro Gaycken
Tag 3
Raum Saal 3
Beginn 21:00
Dauer 01:00
ID 517
Veranstaltungstyp Vortrag
Track Society
Sprache englisch

Free Software and Anarchism

does this compute?

The mode of production in free software development is often being described as anarchical. Despite this attribution seems not initially intended in any fundamental political sense, this sense starts to transfuse the discussions. This invites to a closer look at the reference: what it is, what it's not and what it could be. And once viewed from general anarchist theory and the anarchist theory of technology, any political relation seems to vanish. But despite this first stance, a demonstrative value can still be obtained as soon as some critical remarks are acknowledged and some developmental frames would be changed.

The term „anarchism“ has been used frequently when free software development has been described. It was meant to grasp two main notions of the phenomenon: first, the open, unguided and non-monopolized mode of technological development and second, the seemingly anti-capitalist aspect of its free propagation. Although the term first appeared to be intended largely to discredit free software development – as a part of the usual warmongering –, it soon took a positive connotation as many anarchist hackers embraced it as fitting and as the free software idea proved to be exceedingly more successful and accepted among users. Thus meanwhile, it transgresses its old territory of rhethoric warfare into a mode of identification and a topic on its own, seemingly placing the free software debate onto a more general political ground. But this is not quite legitimate. The use of the term in the debate was largely introduced in its colloquial sense which stems from the public image of anarchy. And that is quite far from what anarchist theory actually is about. Thus the question arises how fitting the term actually is, if free software development is viewed from anarchist theory. To investigate this, one has to accredit two possible points of view. First, free software would have to be judged as a technology from the anarchist theory of technology. This reveals that the revolt happens only within another technology which is not so free and quite ambivalent, namely computers. Second, apart from the resulting technology, free software could be judged as a pure developmental method. But as such, it can soon be demonstrated how it is bracketed by the ideological frameworks of capitalism and authority, thus reproducing and proliferating both. It follows that the use of the term „anarchism“, contrary to the fact that it is now intended more openly in its political notion, is more of a fashion, a linguistic reinvention of capitalism and authority. Free software appears to be just slightly more political than any other chunk of consumer electronics and the culture it proposes is not as free and counter-capitalistic as it is held to be.

But this judgement doesn't have to be the end of it. Something politically valuable can still be drawn from the developmental method if it can be stripped of its ideological framings and thus placed on a more genuine anarchical turf. In that case, one can render the core argument against intellectual property conceptions, addressing the case of a highly creative, boosted productivity in free software development, into an argument – attached to a case study – for the developmental potential of an anarchical society in general. With this developmental argument transitively enlarged into an argument for anarchism, the case of free software could receive an outstanding political importance. It could factually prove that leadership and financial interest are not only not essential to production, research or development, but also hindering those, thus hindering the development of human faculties in general.

Free Software and Anarchism - does this compute?

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