The Political Economy of Open Source Software

By:
Dr. Samir Chopra,
Dr Scott D Dexter
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Steve Weber's "The Success of Open Source" examines and analyzes the political economies of open source software, spawning a number of questions: How does the political economy of open source software handle Marxist critiques of traditional capitalist modes of production (e.g. alienation, separation from surplus value)? Open source software vendors do rely on a 'free market' for profit, but to what extent do they invoke (or revise) traditional notions of property and production? What distinguishes a software capitalist from a software worker? Does the availability of source code address the alienation of consumer (i.e., 'user') from product? What is the open-source conception of the user? Does the open source process encourage perceptions of the user as more empowered/intelligent? What is the relation of the open source programmer to his product? To answer these questions, we begin with an analysis grounded in standard notions of labor value, and move on to explore current theorizing on immaterial labor and affective value. We will investigate the notion of a 'means of production' in the context of software development. We tentatively hypothesize that open source software is not anti-capitalist but instead is an evolutionary step towards what has been termed 'late capitalism'. We will produce a critique of open-source development, arguing that while it clearly manifests a number of anti-capitalist tendencies, it is essentially aligned with postmodern capitalist development models.


Keywords: Open Source, Political Economy, Capitalism, Marxism
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Political Economy of Open Source Software, The


Dr. Samir Chopra

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York


Dr Scott D Dexter

Associate Professor, Department of Computer and Information Science, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York


Ref: T05P0053