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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #306 - Culture, Read: Broca, "Utopia of free software" (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 4 Jul 2020 08:13:51 +0300

Released in 2013, Sébastien Broca's Utopie du libre libre traces the history of the free software movement, its impact on society, and the possibilities that emerge thanks to the activism of its actors and actresses. ---- At the end of the 1970s, the market sphere quickly caught up with the "delay" it then had in the field of IT, by installing legislative and organizational locks, mainly in the world of work. We can speak of a time "of enclosure" in the use of IT, by analogy with the turning point in the organization of English society, in which the Enclosure Acts have, over the XVII th and XVIII nd centuries, put an end to usage rights and dismantled the commons, reserving the communal meadows for owners of sheep who produce wool and leaving peasant families to sink into precariousness.

The hack of the century
Back to IT ; in this context of enclosure, a figure stands out for his activism and his ideals: Richard Stallman. Founding activist of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), he launched resistance in the early 1980s. With the FSF, the project of a free operating system (GNU) is born. In addition, taking advantage of what copyright law grants to authors and authors on the use of their works, the FSF wrestles a free license, the famous General Public License (GPL). This grants users four freedoms - use, modification, copying and redistribution - and requires that these in turn be respected by software that uses a source code under the GPL license. Nice nose to a legislation which wants to guarantee the sacrosanct commodification of the world!

Like any movement, the free software movement is influenced by the surrounding context in its evolution. In the early 1990s, another vision of free software emerged. Wanting to be "pragmatic" and far from any "ideology", open source is born. It is a reflection of the turning point "end of history" of this decade. Since you have to make money from everything, wouldn't it be wiser to transform free software, the horizontal organization of its contributors, and their commendable technical performance, into a source wealth?

The question remains open until today. The beliefs of the free software movement and those of open source are different. An eloquent example: the first defends the idea that technology is not neutral, because its design and its rules induce a specific functioning and use. The second scans that technology is neutral, and that its use determines its meaning.

Struggles and experimentation
The relationship to work and the demand for horizontality that the free software movement will bring to society, and to the world of work, are studied in detail by the author. Drawing on weighty references (Marx, Gorz, Castoriadis, Negri, Moulier Boutang), Sébastien Broca conducts relevant analyzes on many subjects: cognitive capitalism, recovery from new management, general intellect, and others possible demands that emerge such as the commons movement or universal income.

A substantial part of the book is devoted to the battles fought from the 2000s by a new generation of the movement, such as the fight against patentability in France and in the European Union. Throughout the chapters, we explore hidden corners of history and little-known analyzes, including one that deserves to be cited: the proximity of the free software movement with the notion of the user-friendly tool, a notion theorized by Ivan Illich. and dear to the movement of decrease. The excellence of the referenced narration, coupled with a search for solid argumentation encourages the reading of this book.

The conclusion is clear: the influence of the free software movement goes far beyond the so-called "technical" sphere , and it is far from being limited to a passionate pastime.

Marouane Taharouri (UCL Naoned)

Sébastien Broca, Free software utopia. From computer DIY to social reinvention , The stowaway, 2013, 282 pages, 9 euros.

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