[OPE-L] Whither libraries?

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sun Feb 26 2006 - 08:22:45 EST

Well quickly one last shot - you may well be correct that libraries come
under attack in various ways both insofar they do not conform to the private
profit principle, and because of alternative electronic information sources.
When I was in Canada, a friend (who worked as teacher/librarian) also
pointed out the disappearance of smaller, proprietor-owned and operated
bookstores there. But anyway why should politics be restricted to a 1970s
model of it? If a library is attacked by people who want to close them down,
and the librarian responds by publishing information which completely
discredits the attack, that's a good strategem, I would think.

I talked about access rights deliberately, because access rights aren't the
same thing as intellectual property rights. Access rights can involve all
kinds of (physical or ideal) intermediation between the user and an object
of use. As soon as you can no longer freely buy or rent a text or image
directly, but have to access it from an electronic device, the possibilities
for access rights multiply, since you can stipulate all kinds of additional
conditions for access, including the use of the device, and indeed structure
the availability or make-up of an information product, in terms of access
rights. A popular example is the difference between open-source software and
proprietary software, but that's only just one particular case of a more
general design phenomenon involving the subordination of use-value to
exchange-value. I think this phenomenon becomes increasingly important in
modern parasitary capitalism, in which a growing part of national income
consists of property income (which, as I have argued, is often poorly
reflected in official macroeconomic aggregates). The final "gated community"
is an information community in which access is conditional on capital

Although Marx did not analyse communication in detail as a social phenomenon
(though he refers to relations of communication), there are now quite a few
works about it, for example:

Marx and Engels on the Means of Communication: A Selection of Texts. Ed by
Y. De La Haye  (Paperback - Jun 1980) (a selection of quotes and texts)

Mattelart, Armand, and Sieglaub, Seth, eds. (1979, 1983). Communication and
Class Struggle, 2 vols. New York: International General.

Armand Mattelart & Michele Mattelart (1998), Theories of Communication : A
Short Introduction. Sage Publications.

Armand Mattelart. Mapping World Communication: War, Progress, Culture,
University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Mosco, Vincent. (1996). The Political Economy of Communication. London,
Eng.: Sage Publications.

Generally, Marx believed that capitalism developed human potential in an
inverted or self-contradictory form. Thus, also in communication, the more
it is technically possible to send and receive messages anywhere around the
globe, the more restrictions are imposed on messaging by commercial
principles, and the more communication flows are shaped by commercial

However, as I've noted in various places, information is often a highly
unstable commodity, precisely because

- its commercial value may depend on exclusivity of access,
-  its value is often context-dependent,
- its value may quickly fall to zero, when new relevant information becomes

Hence the tendency to attempt to secure control over the original sources
(or the whole supply chain) of information - the "enclosure movement" in the
garden of knowledge...


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