I’d like to show some personal appreciation towards you, in having the courage and skill to write what I suspect may be echoed in some others readers minds.
You seem like a serious person, which itself is rare to find in discusions on the political economy of F/LOSS.
So, I appreciate you taking the time to write down your thoughts and the effort you have gone to, to emolliate my earlier provovations.
Here, I will give up the armed rhetoric and plump for some sober analysis of what you have written, for the purposes of encouraging clarity, rather than the tiresome tendency for discussions to become… well… tiresome.
Let’s try that?
Okay, so I get the relativistic argument, of the type:
When I understand the quote with their frame of reference, it makes sense.
Pedagogy is just like this… higher knowledge reproduction I think gravitates towards certain contexts. I am also comfortable with paradox, paralogics and the postmodern turn. I get a sense you are too. That will help I think.
But let’s think seriously about the implications of what Kuhn and Stallman are doing with this.
They are clearly advocating something like ‘license standardization’. Also, they are advocating software freedom on a very esoteric interpretation of what freedom can mean… you get this too, by analogy. I won’t labor it.
Riffing on various forms of license restrictions in order to defend a particular conception of technological liberty has become a banal pantomine between pro-corporate libertarians and moralizing liberals. That is the stage for conversations about software licensing AFAICT… well… apart from places like this where the complexities of the politics informing many of these software licensing efforts occasionally come to die.
I gave an incomplete list of links to further reading for people interested in exploring the complicated relationship between various conceptions of freedom.
So yes, it’s complicated and yes, freedom is often used as camouflage for power, as Kuhn and Stallman naively highlight.
Much of the article struck me as typical Stallman: too naive and too literal. It reads like a Bible Study in Free Software. I can see the seductiveness, especially for software engineers whose appetite for workforce politics, I have observed almost always matches those of their employers… business owners… rather than those of other producers that they have much more in common with… artists, scientists, academics, other engineers and so forth.
So, as we are here, both pondering about what freedom can mean, it does leave this outstanding quote from Stallman and Kuhn, and I do stand by this, it is an astonishing claim that is worth repeating because of it’s audacity:
The argument is co-creating fairness in society is contingent on we, the producers not being given the means to control the way the products of our labor are distributed.
We do not need a book length treatise to see the implications of this, do we?
In good faith, I am assuming that Kuhn and Stallman don’t mean it literally, because if software producers couldn’t choose a license, then they couldn’t choose their flagship license, the GPL… and that in itself would be the death of that.
So, we have to take this argument as facetiously as they are. What they are actually saying is something like:
‘We don’t want producers of software to choose a license that we don’t like.’
We could go as far as to say they are really adding a footnote to that old article about the four freedoms from years back, simply because of the growing interest in so called ‘Ethical’ licenses.
I am forever skeptical about people who say ‘they don’t have any stakes’ and so forth. If you produce anything at all in this world, whether it’s a critical piece of web infrastructure, a JS lick, or whether you just stay at home and tinker around with computers in your spare time, the politics of technology I believe are inescapable.
Even if your preferred lifestyle is practically living in a political cave, the effects of technology are a fight everyone is already in, whether we like it or not?