Creative Transformation and the Knowledge-Based Economy: Intellectual Property and Access to Knowledge under Informational Capitalism
Turcotte, Joseph Fernand
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This dissertation contributes to critiques of informational capitalism by analyzing the role intellectual property (IP) law plays in the appropriation and commodification of knowledge. Using an interdisciplinary framework rooted in the critical political economy of communication and critical legal studies, this dissertation focuses on how IP law is used to appropriate knowledge as a commodity and support accumulation in a so-called knowledge-based economy, better understood as informational capitalism. Informational capitalism is legitimated by neoliberal, libertarian, and technologically-determinist beliefs, which I demonstrate to be fallacies that support political economic concentrations and inequitable processes of commodification, spatialization, and structuration. International organizations and governance regimes, such as the international trade-based IP system, diffuse these beliefs and thereby legitimize practices that remove knowledge and information from their social contexts. This dissertation propounds the use of a knowledge/information dialectic to highlight the mutually constitutive relationship between knowledge-based resources and informational assets. As I demonstrate, digital and peer-based production alternatives challenge IP law by highlighting the socio-cultural aspects of knowledge/information necessary for commodification to occur. Such alternatives represent an emerging informational politics responding to the inequities of informational capitalism. Using Karl Polanyis double movement thesis, I focus on alternative practices of knowledge production and management as counter-movements to IP seeking to support a greater variety of socio-cultural concerns and more equitable political economic structurations. In particular, through a critical analysis of the Access to Knowledge (A2K) Movement (an umbrella term covering various civil society and non-Western approaches to IP), I demonstrate how informational politics simultaneously resist and extend the economically reductionist and technologically determinist fallacies they purport to oppose. By tracing the emergence of the concept of A2K and performing a critical discourse analysis of key primary and secondary Movement texts, I show it to be a counter-movement that concurrently opposes and reinforces key neoliberal, libertarian, and technologically-determinist assumptions. I conclude that human rights-based discourses and human capability approaches to development provide alternative normative frameworks that oppositional movements might use to address the political economic inequities posed by IP-based informational capitalism.