From market values to shared values #1: from commodities to commonities

Published on 04 October 2022 by in ArticlesResearch

Transvestment, from commodities to commodities

Transvestment shifts linear resources and capital to circular directions for co-created livelihoods

Our human world is in transition, as part of a rapidly changing natural environment. Global and local developments are accelerating and reinforcing each other. Our world seems to become rather chaotic, but it is in fact an ongoing transformation. We are at the brink of a more horizontal world, opportunities are coming together. The effect seems to become “glocality”, ultimately culminating into “continentalization”. Finally, our growing network society offers many possibilities to alter the old linear way of how we were related to our environment, to mother nature in general. And to assets and capital specifically, those traditional forms of economics. The main ongoing change is our passage to sense-making and circular ecologics. Resources and money are starting to flow in other directions.

Transvestment will speed up this fundamental alteration because transvestment shifts capitalist assets to commons-based alternatives. Value from a dominant economic system of production is now transferred to a free social-ecological system of collaboration, cooperation, and co-creation. In peer-to-peer commonities these assets are contributing to purposeful thriving and flourishing of human values. Our well-being is then also equally balancing nature. New-economic value is regenerative, not generative and destructive like the old-economic value. Earth will have ecological “wearth” instead of economical “worth”. The “market value” is transformed into “shared values”; “marketing” has become “commoning”; and “commodities” have become “commonities”.

Warding off value

The present dominant economical chain of value creation is based on extraction. In this way the raw materials of mother Earth, the differentiated products of producers, and the differentiated services of suppliers all have become commodities. The next link in this value-chain will soon be differentiated and become commodities as well: our individual experiences in the present “experience economy”. Nevertheless, the final link in this value-chain can not be commoditized, because personal transformations automatically ward off commoditization, according to business thought leader and writer Joe Pine (1958): ‘In the nascent transformation economy, the customer is the product, and the transformation is an aid in changing the traits of the person who buys it. Transformations that affect this kind of change, automatically ward off commoditization, because there can be no greater differentiation than a transformed person’. This chain results in a rather solistic reality for individuals.

Embracing values

Although experiences are mainly individual, and although transformation is utmost personal, parallel to this economic value-chain is another chain: a non-economic values-chain, in which the links do not lead to more and more mass-customization but to more and more joint collectiveness, to commoning based on a conversational dialogue. There, the customer and nature are no longer the product, but both are valued based on meaning that makes sense to all. According to philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980), life has no value a priori: ‘It is up to you to give life a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose’. So, let’s choose meaning that makes sense in a shared environment and in shared commonities. When we value a “balanced nature” instead of the “unbalanced capital”, when we re-value captivated resources into shared assets, when we finally value the integrated and systemic wholeness of our living environment, then all these interrelations of ourselves as “inter-beings” will start to create another human world on this planet Earth. Without the present commoditization of people, of our vulnerable society, and of our precious spaceship at large.

Value chain: marketing

According to cyber philosopher and writer Michel Bauwens (1958), transvestments help commons-based forms to accept capital while being used to advance collective purposes: ‘Through peer production new commons and market forms will be developed. Transvestment creates a flow of value from the system of capital to the system of the commons economy. Instead of the co-optation of the commons economy by capital – in the form of the netarchical capitalist platforms which capture value from the commons – transvestment co-opts capital inside the commons, and subjects it to their commonity practices’. The most important effect is that people will self-identify as “commoners”, rather than as “human resources” or as “labored commodities”, because that would per definition create a traditional market-oriented identity. Instead, the members of the growing commonity lead themselves to a future-bound shared values-based identity. Michel Bauwens is convinced of the positive outcome of these rising dynamics: ‘Market exchange and commoning can be constructively conjoined. As capitalism faces a series of structural crises, a new social, political, and economic dynamic is emerging. Peer-to-peer commonities are types of social relations in human networks, as well as technological infrastructures that make the generalization and scaling up of such relations possible. Thus, peer-to-peer enables a new mode of production and creates the potential for a transition to a commons-oriented economy. With “value sovereignty” of all commoners. And by sharing physical resources, avoiding waste, and localizing production’. In other words: sharing for caring.

Values chain: commoning

While the economical “value-chain” focuses on linear value-chain management, the circular contactual “values-chain” offers openness for individual or collective cognition raising, meaning giving, and sense-making. Step by step the communicative “monologue” then alters into a conversational “dialogue”, respectively changes into an ongoing common “omnilogue”. These shared values from those joint sources are needed for fundamental renewal and innovation to get Planet, People, and Prosperity as Triple P finally in balance. According to management guru and writer Michael Porter (1947) the central premise behind creating shared value is that the competitiveness of an organization and the health of the communities around it are interdependent: ‘The purpose of the corporation must be redefined as creating shared value, not just profit per se. This will drive the next wave of innovation’. Recognizing these connections between societal purpose and economic prosperity has the potential to unleash a wave of global thriving, instead of solely a novel tsunami of devastating global growth. Transvestment bridges these two: the transfer of value from one dominant system to another autonomous domain.


Software developer and creative thought leader Dmytri Kleiner (1969) is a promoter of commons-based, collaborative, and shared forms of economic distribution and cultural production. His peer-to-peer model allocates capital that is critically needed to accomplish what capitalism cannot: the ongoing proliferation of free culture and free networks. For him, transvestment is a kind of reverse co-optation in which capitalist enterprises become dependent upon the generation of value and values in commons: ‘Transvestment is a transfer of value from one mode of production to another. Investment is something that an investor can do that enriches both the investor and the mode of production that the investor is engaging at. Exvestment is something that may enrich the investor but does not enrich the investor’s mode of production. Transvestment is the balance of those two. So you can think of transvestment as export and import of value into the commons. And transvestment requires technological disobedience, because the industry as it is, with all the equipment and things that are being produced by the industry, are produced for the interest of capital, so for the capitalists. In order to build systems that do something other than promoting the interests of capitals, we have to use these systems in different ways, in ways they were not intended to be used by industries that produce them. The end-to-end principle means designing things in a way where all the functionalities of the system reside in the end-nodes. So nothing in the middle, full disintermediation. Because profit requires centralization for platforms to earn profit, they need to control user interaction and user data, because that is what their business models are based upon. They better serve the interest of capital. They make it possible for capital to capture profit. The basis of capitalist platforms is the capture of users. Their business model is the sale of audience commodities. In order to overcome these kinds of things, in order to build alternative platforms, we have to address the fundamental problem, and that is capitalism. If we are really busy building alternative systems, we have to think about how productive capacities are spent, and are they for building our communication capacity for social value or for profit? End-to-end systems have a completely different platform: the more users you have, the more capacity you have, because the actual systems are built based on the distributed resources. So every additional user makes the platform grow and scale. With end-to-end it becomes scalable and it becomes sustainable. We have to think multi-modular: what modes are happening, and what is the structure of modes in the economy? Then, value can go between modes, using transvestment. Transvestment is that balance between investment and exvestment. This is a very helpful way of understanding the transition. Thinking multi-modular helps to understand that we have to build the commons movement, and as technologists we have to use technology in ways that not necessarily follow the interest of the industries and organizations that made them’.So let’s choose otherwise: by raising our cognition, by giving more meaning, and by making more sense. For freeing our human world on this natural planet.

Of course, we cannot save the whole world and solve all its challenges. The theories in this chapter only show that new philosophical movements are emerging worldwide that can take the world a step forward and possibly secure the perspective of new generations. We believe that is able to put these theories into practice by building an infrastructure to distribute liquidity around the world as fairly and efficiently as possible and thereby gain new insights.

Sources of inspiration

  • Article: David Bollier, in: ‘Re-imagining value’, 2016, editor: Heinrich Böll Stiftung
  • Website: Michel Bauwens, on:
  • Book: Michel Bauwens, in: ‘De wereld redden’, 2013, editor: Houtekiet
  • Video: Dmytri Kleiner, on:
  • Book: Joe Pine, in: ‘The experience economy’, 2019, editor: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Quote: Jean-Paul Sartre, on:
  • Quote: Michael Porter, on:
  • Quote: Frank Oonk, on: www.Masternode.One
  • Paper: Satoshi Nakamoto, in: ‘Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system’, 2008, on: