Reconstructing the Economy: A Methodological Journey from the Surface to the Essence and Back

  • Peter Karl Fleissner
Keywords: information society, new science of information, heterodox economics, commodification of information goods, commercialization of information services, emancipation, simulation model


The essential methodology in social science to “understand” phenomena is informed abstraction. But the way - how and what for the abstraction process is shaped - divides the economists into various schools. While mainstream econ- omists abstract from any links of the economy to human beings - replacing them by selfish machines maximizing their prof- its or individual utilities, and neglecting any deeper analysis of the basic constructions they use (like prices or money), heterodox economists try to look behind the surface, link them to certain periods of history and to the source of all value: humans are social beings and cannot exist without mutuality. The paper presents a heterodox way to reconstruct contempo- rary capitalist economies by applying the new science of information with its evolutionary concepts. It starts the description on a very abstract level: useful things and services produced by specialized labor. Step by step new layers of economic activities and related information are added and become the basis for the next one. Vice versa economic activities on lower layers become controlled and modified by higher layers. One can see that the higher controlling principles in contemporary capitalist economies do not assist the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the majority of people, but function ac- cording to the self-interest of a minority. For the first time in history capitalism has developed new technologies that in prin- ciple could allow for the participation of the many, to create abundance of information, and to offer tools for building a de- mocratic and sustainable society. But by the same capitalism, rigid Intellectual Property Rights and severe copy protection mechanisms enforce artificial shortage of information goods.

Author Biography

Peter Karl Fleissner
Peter Karl Fleissner born 1944, retired from his chair on Social Cybernetics of the Institute of Design and Assessment of New Technologies at the Technical University Vienna, in October 2006, after seven years of work for the European Union (1997–2000: Head of the Department "Technology, Employment, Competitiveness and Society" of the Seville based Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Spain; 2000–2004: Head of the Department "Research and Networking" of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia - EUMC). Before, he had worked for the Austrian Academy of Sciences; the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Lax- enburg, Austria; as research scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and at the Institute for Advanced Stud- ies, Vienna, Austria. He continues work as consultant (simulating pension schemes for the Austrian Chamber of Labor, developing long term socio-economic and ecological models and as lecturer at TU Vienna and University of Klagenfurt. Selected publications: BruchStücke (co-editor Wanek, N., 2009); Digitale Medien - Neue Möglichkeiten für Demokratie und Partizipation? (with Romano, V., 2007); Philosophy of culture and the politics of electronic networking, 2 volumes (with Nyíri, J. C., 1999); Data security and privacy (with Choc, M. , 1997); Men shall not live by bit alone (with Hofkirchner, W., Müller, H., Pohl, M., & Stary, Ch., 1996); The transformation of slovakia, 1994; Input-output analysis, 1993; East german economy in transition (with Ludwig, U., 1992). Further information: E-mail: fleiss-
Special Issue: Towards a New Science of Information