Saturday, March 04, 2006

Neoliberalism and open source

Biella has a nice discussion of some of David Berry's work on the discourses of the free and open source movement. I posted this comment (which is currently waiting to be moderated in):
This question of the differences between ‘official’ movement language and the daily practice of individual developers is such an interesting one!

Bracketing the questions of neoliberalism for a moment, I’m not sure there’s such a gap between your position, Biella, and David’s. One of the things Samir and I have been thinking about a fair amount is that Stallman (and Moglen, who indeed seems much more comfortable using explicitly political — Marxist and anarchist — language than Stallman) appear intentially to occupy an extreme position (where that’s in no way a pejorative term) on the ’spectrum of liberalism.’ This both establishes one end of the spectrum (and possibly extends the spectrum itself) and also provides a sort of lodestar for the community.

I interpret most of Raymond’s writing as an effort to serve similarly as an ideological guidepost for the corporate opensource folks; I’m not certain that places him at the opposite end of the liberal spectrum, but he certainly does put language to work distancing himself from Stallman and his unruly band of ideological tub-thumpers.

So Stallman/Moglen and Raymond do stake out dichotomous positions, but positions that establish, rather than obliterate, a continuum.

Re: neoliberalism. It doesn’t sound like you’re contesting David’s claims that Raymond’s language is neoliberal (I don’t contest them, myself); rather, you’re suggesting that there might be an overstrong identification being made between Raymond’s language/politics and “open source on the ground.” Which, I think, is a very good point. I think many of us (certainly Samir and I continue to be guilty of this) have a tendency to view FS/OS as some kind of Kinsey scale, where we could theoretically measure the FSuality of a particular developer as 42%. It’s a very useful simplifying assumption, one I don’t think we should abandon–but I’m fairly sure that were we to include less formally published writings in our analyses we’d need to deploy a theoretical structure significantly more complex than either dichotomy or continuum.


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