28 January 2010

Uncommonly Good Post on the Commons

Wow: this is the best single post I have ever read on the commons (and I've read a few):

The commons as a common paradigm for social movements and beyond (version 1.0)

We can only promote the commons as a new narrative for the 21st century if they are identified as a common denominator by different social movements and schools of thought. In my point of view, enforcing the commons would be not only possible, but strategically intelligent. Here are 15 reasons why...

I'm tempted to quote the whole thing, but it's long and doing so is unnecessary, since you can simply follow the link above. But it really touches on just about every reason why the commons as an idea is important. However, I can't resist give an indication of its riches by quoting two sections that should strike a chord with people in the world of free software:

The commons strengthens an important core belief about human beings and behaviour. We are not only, not even mainly the „homo oeconomicus“ they made us believe we are. We are much more than selfish creatures looking for our own interest. We need and enjoy being embedded into a social web. “The commons are the web of life”, says Vandana Shiva. We enjoy to contribute, care and share. The commons strengthens the confidence in the creative potential of people and in the idea of inter-relationality, which means: “I need the others and the others need me.” They honour our freedom to contribute and share. This is a different kind of freedom than the market is based on. The more we contribute, more things we have access to. But note: it is not simply „access to everything for free“.


The commons is an alternative mode of production. The problems we are confronted with are not problems of resource-availability. They are problems that arise from the current mode of production. Fortunately, in some areas, we are witnessing a shift from the capitalist mode of production (based on property, command, value exchange via money, resources and labour exploitation, dependent on growth and striving for profit) into a commons mode of production (based on possession, contribution, sharing, self interest and initiative, where the GDP is a negligible indicator and the aim is a „good life“ < bem viver). Many “Common Based Peer Production” projects are developing successfully. This is especially true for the production of knowledge (Wikipedia, Free Software, Open Design). But there is a thrilling discussion going on about how principles of commons based peer production can be transferred to the production of what we eat, wear and move with, at least to a certain extent. I believe that this is possible. Firstly because knowledge makes up the lion’s share of each kind of production. All goods are latent knowledge products. There is no car production or eggproduction without a concept and a design behind (which make the lion’s share of its „market value“). Secondly because there are many kinds of commons sectors (care economy, solidarity economy) which have not been commodified yet and where commons values and rules are deeply rooted. Those sectors are evidence that every day many of the things we need to live are produced outside the market.

Do read the whole thing if you can: it's really worth it.

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