Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication

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Research Seminar: Matthew David – Sharing: Crime Against Capitalism

Clothworkers’ Building North, Lecture Theatre G.12, All Welcome

Today’s economic system, premised on the sale of physical goods, does not fit the information age we live in. The capitalist order requires the maintenance of an artificial scarcity in goods that have the potential for near infinite and almost free replication. The sharing of informational goods through distributed global networks – digital libraries, file-sharing, live-streaming, free software, free-access publishing, the free-sharing of scientific knowledge, and open-source pharmaceuticals – not only challenges the dominance of a scarcity-based economic system, but also enables a more efficient, innovative, just and free culture.

The paper will focus on two themes I’ve been working on more recently in elaborating the above theme, one the economic anthropological distinction between sharing as peer circulation (the Kula Circle) and sharing as generalised distribution (Potlatch), and two the meaning of the term ‘capitalism’ in relation to information when IP closes down markets to protect property and where ‘piracy’ challenges property to reinvent markets.


Matthew David teaches Sociology at Durham University. His interests are in cyber culture, technology in society, and in particular the accordances of sharing networks. Whether capitalism can survive the possibility of ‘post-scarcity’ is the question confusing him at present. He is author Science in Society (Palgrave 2005), Peer to Peer and the Music Industry (Sage 2010) and Sharing: Crime Against Capitalism (Polity 2017).

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