the hi-tech gift economy
by richard barbrook
During the Sixties, the New Left created a new form of radical politics: anarcho-communism.
Above all, the Situationists and similar groups believed that the tribal gift economy
proved that individuals could successfully live together without needing either the state
or the market. From May 1968 to the late Nineties, this utopian vision of anarcho-communism
has inspired community media and DIY culture activists. Within the universities, the gift
economy already was the primary method of socialising labour. From its earliest days, the
technical structure and social mores of the Net has ignored intellectual property. Although
the system has expanded far beyond the university, the self-interest of Net users perpetuates
this hi-tech gift economy. As an everyday activity, users circulate free information as
e-mail, on listservs, in newsgroups, within on-line conferences and through Web sites. As
shown by the Apache and Linux programs, the hi-tech gift economy is even at the forefront of
software development. Contrary to the purist vision of the New Left, anarcho-communism on
the Net can only exist in a compromised form.
Money-commodity and gift relations are not just
in conflict with each other, but also co-exist in symbiosis. The 'New Economy' of cyberspace
is an advanced form of social democracy.