Skip to content
Yochai Benkler
08 July 2013

Yochai Benkler – Freedom, Power, Practical Anarchism. And an Interview.

Yochai Benkler was the speaker of the WZB Berlin Colloquium “Rethinking Law in a Global Context: Private Ordering and Public Authority” on 11 June 2013. Professor Benkler discussed his recent paper “Practical Anarchism: Peer Mutualism, Market Power, and the Fallible State”.

Based on several examples of working anarchies in the networked environment Benkler argued that peer mutualism works in certain contexts. Even though it is not perfect, it provides people with a new degree of freedom.

As individuals inhabiting a world of interlocked imperfect systems, we are susceptible to power shaping our perceptions, preferences, policies and principles as well as our actions, outcomes and configurations. Peer mutualism offers us a new way to bob and weave between those systems.

The core questions are how much of what people care about can be done in non-market, non-proprietary, non-governmental models? Do peer mutualism models offer enough of a solution space? And how corruptible are these nonhierarchical and noncoercive models?

I had the chance to interview Yochai Benkler after the Colloquium. I asked him about current developments centered on issues related to internet and society, what conditions are needed for commons-based peer production to flourish, how the discussion of selfishness versus human capabilities to cooperate translate into the realm of science and whether openness in science provides us with a new degree of freedom.

You can watch the interview below or listen to the audio version (mp3).

* This note draws on Benkler’s paper mentioned above as well as on the discussion during the Berlin Colloquium.

This post represents the view of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of the institute itself. For more information about the topics of these articles and associated research projects, please contact info@hiig.de.

Kaja Scheliga

Former Associated Researcher: Learning, knowledge, innovation

Sign up for HIIG's Monthly Digest

and receive our latest blog articles.

Man sieht in Leuchtschrift das Wort "Ethical"

Digital Ethics

Whether civil society, politics or science – everyone seems to agree that the New Twenties will be characterised by digitalisation. But what about the tension of digital ethics? How do we create a digital transformation involving society as a whole, including people who either do not have the financial means or the necessary know-how to benefit from digitalisation?  And what do these comprehensive changes in our actions mean for democracy? In this dossier we want to address these questions and offer food for thought on how we can use digitalisation for the common good.

Discover all 12 articles

Further articles

Man sieht eine*n Lieferant*in eines Online-Lieferdienst für Essen auf einem Motorroller. Das Bild steht sinnbildlich für die Arbeitenden in der Gig Economy in Kenia. You see a delivery person from an online food delivery service on a scooter. The image is emblematic of the workers in the gig economy in Kenya.

Towards a socially just gig economy in Kenya: Stakeholder engagement and regulatory processes

The gig economy in Kenya is growing rapidly but conditions for workers are often precarious. We investigated the livelihoods of gig workers.

Man sieht mehrer Spiegel, die in unterschiedlichen Formen angeordnet sind und verschiedene Oberflächen, wie den Himmel, eine Hauswand und so weiter widerspiegeln. Das Bild steht sinnbildlich für die vielen verschiedenen Bedeutungen von autonomen Systemen in unserer Gesellschaft. You see several mirrors arranged in different shapes reflecting different surfaces, such as the sky, a house wall and so on. The image is emblematic of the many different meanings of autonomous machines in our society.

The age of machine autonomy?

Can machines be autonomous – or is it a human prerogative? This categorical question dominates many discussions on our relationship to purportedly intelligent machines. A human vs. machine rhetoric, however,...

remote work is moving towards the city

The Anywhere Jobs are nowhere near – How remote work is moving towards the city

Remote working allows us to work from "anywhere". So why are cities, of all places, becoming the new mega-hubs for digital work? What does this change bring to rural regions...