Of all the innovations that we have seen over the last few decades, the Internet is surely both the most revolutionary and most influential. And with the incredible rise of Internet access, P2P-networks have become increasingly popular as well. But even though P2P is still primarily associated with technology and online file sharing, the concept has also become tremendously important for the social sciences as well.
Here’s a short overview of how P2P-thinking is influencing the way humans think about society.
P2P As An Alternative To Capitalist Society
Michael Bauwens is a Belgian technological expert and writer who, in his “The Political Economy of Peer Production”, argued that P2P phenomena have paved the way for an alternative economic system that is neither capitalist nor centrally planned (or socialist) in nature. In his view, P2P social relationships can be relevant outside of the traditional framework of computers and technology and are already changing the way society and civilization are organized, just like the rise of P2P networks like Ares Galaxy revolutionized the traditional hierarchical structure of file sharing on the Internet.
Bauwens sees P2P not so much as replacing the market, but adding to it, and has a vision of it as a new kind of representative democracy which could be helpful in discovering and implementing solutions to the challenges the world is currently dealing with.
P2P Legal Governance
The idea that the government must have a monopoly on political decision-making is increasingly coming under fire as a result of the cultural transformation of P2P-thinking. Although most P2P-theorists don’t go as far as to argue for a complete P2P-based form of spontaneous government, in which individuals all determine political outcomes together, some have taken steps in this direction.
The above-mentioned Michael Bauwens, for example, argues that the “peers” in a societal model shouldn’t be thought of as individuals, but as decentralized interest groups of stakeholders. This idea has led to the concept of collaborative e-democracy in which laws and public policies are determined by governmental and private groups on a sort of social networking program of which every citizen is a member.
P2P As An Organizational Format
The day that the law becomes an outcome of true spontaneous interaction rather than of a hierarchical command structure is probably still very far off. But, on a lower level, P2P has already had a great deal of success as a way to organize movements and create networks of people with similar goals and/or interests.
A superb example of the power of P2P-organization in the formation of social and political movements is the recent “Occupy”-movement. Through various peer-based networks, a multitude of groups and many more individuals have been able to organize themselves across cultural groups, country borders and even the political spectrum to unite around particular key ideas.
It is clear that the P2P-revolution continues, both online and offline. The social, economic and political implications of P2P are still unclear, but, if anything, Ares Galaxy serves as a prime example of the power and durability of a network of peers: 10 years after it was first made available, Ares Galaxy still connects hundreds of thousands of people with one another across the entire world.