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<nettime> M-C-LOL: Circuits of value in the Lulz economy.
Dmytri Kleiner on Sat, 8 Feb 2014 02:12:50 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> M-C-LOL: Circuits of value in the Lulz economy.

Neither free software, nor crowd funding will save us from capitalism. 
We can't overthrow capitalism by undertaking work merely for the Lulz, 
we need to create new value circuits that allow is to build new means of 
survival for the planet, and only then can we do away with capitalism.

In the stages capitalist production, the Capitalist comes to market 
twice. The first time as a buyer, the second time as a seller.

Marx described this as <em>M - C - M'</em>

In the first stage the capitalist buys commodities and labour time. In 
the second stage, the purchased commodities and labour time are put into 
production. The result is a commodity of more value than that of the 
elements entering into its production. In the third stage, the 
capitalist returns to the market as a seller; the new commodities are 
turned into more money.

As the capitalist winds up with more money as a result of the 
productive process, the capitalist can purchase more labour time and 
commodities and repeat the process again, and again.

Investing in production allows the capitalist to reproduce, increase 
and accumulate capital. This reproduction cycle is what makes capitalism 
a thriving, dynamic system, that expands.

This very process of capitalist production has many negatives, many of 
which extend from the inherent exploitation involved in making labour 
time into a commodity, many others from the practice of allocating 
productive assets in the interests of profit, instead of social good, 
still more from the dispossesion and enclosure required to create the 
social conditions for capitalist production.

Yet, capitalism sustains us. Despite it's social costs, its factories 
and institutions provide the means of survival that the world depends 
on, even while it's contradictions jeopardize our survival.

In order to transcend capitalism, we need to find ways to provision the 
means of survival differently. "Ending" Capitalism, before alternative 
productive strategies for survival are not only conceived, but actually 
existing on sufficient scale, would more likely lead to collapse and a 
new dark ages than it would a fairer and more sustainable society.

In order for any such alternative productive strategies to grow to a 
scale in which they could be a viable alternative to capitalism, they 
must, like capitalism be thriving, dynamic systems capable of growth. 
They need to be able to reproduce their productive inputs. Economic 
alternatives need to have sustainable value circuits to be truly viable.

Free Software as well as the goods financed by Kickstarter and similar 
sites seem like production, after all stuff is produced. One can use 
free software, just like one can consume a movie, book, album or novelty 
gadget funded by Kickstarter.

Yet, the way the creation of these goods is financed can not reproduce 
its inputs.

In the creation of free software and in the funding of Kickstarter 
projects, money to sustain the inputs comes from donation, either actual 
donation of money in the case of crowd funding, or in-kind in the form 
of free labour in the case of some free software. These donations and 
in-kind contributions are done voluntarily. Yet such voluntarist 
production is different than capitalist production.

<strong>M - C - LOL</strong>

Thus, like capitalists, voluntary producers, come to market twice. Fist 
time as buyers, the second time for the lulz. However, unlike 
capitalists their circuit is not completed, because the lulz do not 
enable them to be buyers again, do not allow for them to acquire the 
inputs they need to repeat such production.

Yes, in the case of Free Software, major corporations do provide 
funding, lots of it. This is when the Capitalist is coming to market as 
a buyer, not a seller. Thus is it capitalist consumption, they don't 
need to make a profit from Free Software directly, they use it in their 
production process and make money when they return to the market with 
the resulting product, which is distributed for more money, not lulz.

The source of this money is not a new mode of production, but 
capitalism. It's simply part of the investment capital must make in its 
means of production, it is consumption not production.

And yes, recipients of Kickstarter financing can use such financing to 
make money, but such income does not flow back to those that donated the 
funds in the first place. The donors, for the most part, need to go back 
to work to get another paycheck before donating again. Thus the money 
comes from their Capitalist employers and is spent out of their 
"disposable income," in other words, once again it is consumption, not 

Both free software and crowd funding are simply novel forms of 
distribution within the capitalist mode of production, and therefor not 
a new mode of production that could potentially disrupt capitalism.

In order to transform these practices into genuinely revolutionary 
forms, we must collectively own the means of production so created, so 
not only must the software be free, but we must collectively own the 
wealth that results form using the software in production. We must 
collectively own the products produced by crowd funding, so that we can 
use the wealth created to reproduce the cycle, again, and again.

So long as our free labour earns only lulz in return, Capitalism has 
the last laugh.

I'll be at Cafe Buchhandlung tonight around 9pm or so, come by if 
you're in time, hope we have lots of surprise guests still hanging 
around Berlin after transmediale.

sharable version: http://www.dmytri.info/m-c-lol/

Dmytri Kleiner
Venture Communist

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