Yochai Benkler, Practical Anarchism: Peer Mutualism, Market Power, and the Fallible State, 41 Pol. & Soc’y 213 (2013).
Abstract: The article considers several working anarchies in the networked environment, and whether they offer a model for improving on the persistent imperfections of markets and states. I explore whether these efforts of peer mutualism in fact offer a sufficient range of capabilities to present a meaningful degree of freedom to those who rely on the capabilities it affords, and whether these practices in fact remain sufficiently nonhierarchical to offer a meaningful space of noncoercive interactions. The real utopias I observe here are perfect on neither dimension. Internally, hierarchy and power reappear, to some extent and in some projects, although they are quite different than the hierarchy of government or corporate organization. Externally, there are some spectacular successes, some failures to thrive, and many ambiguous successes. In all, present experience supports neither triumphalism nor defeatism in the utopian project. Peer models do work, and they do provide a degree of freedom in the capabilities they provide. But there is no inexorable path to greater freedom through voluntary open collaboration. There is a good deal of uncertainty and muddling through. The last part of the article suggests a theory of freedom that supports the significance of even these obviously imperfect peer systems with incomplete coverage of necessary human capabilities, and explains why expanding the domain of mutualism improves freedom and well-being under conditions of persistent market imperfection and an inevitably fallible state. Peer mutualism doesn’t have to be perfect; it merely needs to offer a new dimension or sufficient diversity in how it instantiates capabilities and transmits power to offer us, who inhabit the systems that these peer systems perturb, a degree of freedom.