the Commons as a fount of hope

Published on The Bullet, Socialist Projects’s E-Bulletin no 1006, by Richard Swift, July 9, 2014.

The commons is not just a battlefield between corporate predators and those who resist them – it is also a source of hope for those willing to imagine a world beyond capitalism. It represents a space between the private market and the political state in which humanity can control and democratically root our common wealth. Both the market and the state have proved inadequate for this purpose. In different ways, they have both led to a centralization of power and decision-making. Both private monopolies and state bureaucracies have proved incapable of maintaining the ecological health of the commons or managing the fair and equitable distribution of its benefits … //

… Managing the Commons:

It is far better to rethink how the commons is managed and to include as many of the players as possible so as to achieve a better result. If decisions rested with local communities or regions, in combination with users of various types both local and remote (environmentalists, fishers, miners, farmers, consumers), and were placed within a legal framework that takes future generations into account, it would seem likely to produce a more durable form of stewardship. This might also in the long run develop other potentialities of human behavior than the narrow self-interest that Hardin so feared.

An alternative to capitalism must in the end be based on a more complex sense of the human than orthodox economists’ notion that we are all hardwired to a rational calculus of individual costs and benefits. The influential commons theorist Elinor Ostrom proposes a different, more optimistic, notion of the human potential for managing the commons. Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics for her seminal 1990 work Governing the Commons.[2] She believes that: “we live in a web of social relations infused with norms and values; we are intrinsically co-operative and as a result collective action is possible and may lead to sustainable and equitable governance practices.”[3] Ostrom does not commit herself to an ambitious political program of replacing state and market with more direct democratic practices. But she opens up the debate about how the commons should be governed rather than just assuming the market abetted by the state can handle the job. For Ostrom, a process of ‘deliberative democracy’ is essential if there is to be proper human stewardship of the commons. Others in the commons movement carry the analysis further and see in the commons the potential to restructure the underlying configuration of power between markets, states and societies.

Democratic Promise: … //

… New Horizontal Commons Democracy:

Other commons-based movements, striving for an alternative ethos, are just getting started. Attempts to create a horizontal commons democracy include the Right to the City movement and other urban initiatives inspired by the French libertarian Marxist Henri Lefebvre. Right to the City has gained traction in South Africa with the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) shackdwellers’ movement, which is active in a number of cities across the country, and in the German city of Hamburg, where it has inspired a network of squatters, tenants and artists. It has become a rallying point also in U.S. cities such as Miami and Boston, and a source of inspiration in India, where Rajapalaya Lake in central Bangalore has been the focus of a fight to maintain a livable urban commons in very crowded conditions.

Some struggles combine resistance and vision. In Quebec, 2012 witnessed a remarkable movement of students against the commodification of education, which put the besieged notion of free advanced education back on the public agenda. Their struggle, which helped to bring down a provincial government, could act as a template for those trying to recover the educational commons from the pressures of commercialization. In the 1990s there was a successful national fishers’ strike in India that prevented the government of the time from handing over the Indian fishery to big trawler operators. Countless other examples, big and small, dot the daily press but are often just restricted to obscure websites.

Commons battles tend to gain attention when they precipitate or are part of some larger struggle that involves active confrontation with those in power. This is, however, really just the tip of the iceberg. If you examine the specialist literature you will discover that almost everywhere there are attempts to make the self-management of the commons a reality. There is an International Journal of the Commons which acts as a forum for debate about commons issues and case studies of successes and failures. A quick look through the table of contents provides a sense of both the scope of the commons and of initiatives being taken to extend their democratic self-management … //

… (full long text).

Related Links:

House of Commons, on;

Disambiguation with other Commons:

  • Commons on en.wikipedia refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. The resources held in common can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. The commons contains
  • public property and private property, over which people have certain traditional rights. When commonly held property is transformed into private property this process alternatively is termed ”enclosure“ or more commonly, “privatization” …; See alsoExternal Links;
  • Bajo Aguan’s Modern Tragedy of the Commons, on Guernica, by Danielle Marie Mackey, December 3, 2012: Human rights abusers who help stop climate change, and the global system that keeps them in business: In the Bajo Aguan, a Somersault in Land Philosophy Brings Widespread Inequality …;
  • Creative helps you share your knowledge and creativity with the world; /about;

… and with Housing and Real Estate:

  • Housing market, on The Guardian;
  • housing bubble 2014 on Google News-search;
  • Real estate economics on en.wikipedia is the application of economic techniques to real estate markets. It tries to describe, explain, and predict patterns of prices, supply, and demand. The closely related field of housing economics is narrower in scope, concentrating on residential real estate markets, while the research of real estate trends focuses on the business and structural changes affecting the industry. Both draw on partial equilibrium analysis (supply and demand), urban economics, spatial economics, extensive research, surveys, and finance …; See alsoExternal Links;

Other Links:

BRICS countries near development bank deal to rival IMF, World Bank, on Russia Today RT, July 9, 2014;

Greenwald: Snowden documents show not just Muslim-Americans are targeted by NSA, on Russia Today RT, July 9, 2014;

China buys $22bn worth of US homes, leads global pack, on Russia Today RT, July 9, 2014: Foreign buyers of US residential real estate surged 35 percent last year, with Chinese buyers, searching for moderately priced, safe investments in a sea of economic and political uncertainty, outspending the rest of the world …;

Video-Interview with Joseph Stiglitz: No, Spiraling Inequality Isn’t Inevitable, on truthout, by Bill Moyers, July 8, 2014;

The Campaign of Alexis Tsipras on the Internet and Why It Should Inspire Us, on transform, by Matthaios Tsimitakis, July 1, 2014;

Salvadoran Farmers Successfully Oppose the Use of Monsanto Seeds, on Global (first on truthout), by Dahr Jamail, July 8, 2014;

Some empirical data: the Radical Left at the 2014 EP Election, on transform, by Paolo Chiocchetti, June 27, 2014: The publication of the final results of the 2014 European Parliament (EP) election of 22-25 May finally permits to draw a first assessment of the performance of the radical Left[1] …;

… and this:

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