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Economics and the Commons?!

Silke Helfrich gave an important introductory talk on the Economics and the Commons Conference (May 22 – 24, 2013, Berlin). The presentation reflects the progress of self-understanding of the commons movement. After some remarks by the moderator Armin Medosch the talk starts around 5:00 showing some commons projects illustrating the variety of the commons. At 21:30 Silke enters the more conceptual part discussing what all the different approaches have in common. The presentation ends at 54:00 and is followed by a discussion. Below, I summarize some of the conceptual statements.

These are some theses Silke developed in her talk (without discussing them here):

  • Commons is beyond (categories of) resources
  • Every commons is a social commons
  • Every commons is a knowledge commons
  • Every commons needs protection and is thus beyond (unconditional) openness
  • Commons do not scale up, but rather crystallize
  • Going forward to Commons Creating Peer Production

At the very end of the talk (45:00) Silke phrased six principles of a Commons Creating Peer Economy:

  1. Use value trumps exchange value
  2. He/she takes from the commons has to contribute to the commons
  3. Commoning includes self-organization and self-healing
  4. Share what you can and defend the right to share
  5. Produce commons first, not commodities
  6. Foster relationships, not transactions

Kategorien: Commons, English

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26. Mai 2013, 11:13 Uhr   6 Kommentare

1 Videos International Commons Conference | mehr (Öko-) Kommunismus wagen ;-) (26.05.2013, 12:54 Uhr)

[…] Mehr Informationen gibt es auf Keimfom […]

2 Christian Siefkes (27.05.2013, 23:46 Uhr)

Silke’s talk was (as usual) nice and inspiring, but some of her remarks re

Every commons needs protection and is thus beyond (unconditional) openness

made me wonder whether she has forgotten about the copyleft principle that much free software/knowledge has already been built in as protection mechanism. Hence there is no need to claim that the „openness“ of open source/free software is insufficient. Apple incorporates non-copylefted BSD software without giving anything back, but it could not do the same with GNU/Linux, which is copylefted. Even in the case of Apple, though it doesn’t expand the commons, it cannot decrease them, since all the original BSD software stays in the commons.

He/she takes from the commons has to contribute to the commons

This is debatable depending on what is meant by „take“. If a use free software or read a Wikipedia article, I have benefited from a commons, but I haven’t taken anything away — the commons hasn’t been decreased as a result of my action. Hence I see no reason why I should be forced to contribute (and indeed good reasons why I shouldn’t). I think it would be more reasonable to formulate something like

„Nobody should be allowed [able] to destroy, damage or diminish the commons.“

The same rule can be applied to more physical commons when we keep the distinction between stocks (the managed common resource) and flows (the yield/output of these stocks) in mind. The food (flow) produced in a community garden (stock) may be freely distributed among people who might not necessarily have to contribute to maintaining the garden. But destroying the garden or taking away the tools required for fostering it should not be allowed since that would diminish the stock and hence the commons itself.

3 Reciprocity and Stigmergy — keimform.de (28.05.2013, 06:23 Uhr)

[…] after my talk: It seems, that Silke Helfrich in her introductory conference talk has a different meaning of reciprocity in mind. She wants to emphasize, that in commons the balance […]

4 Silke (10.06.2013, 13:35 Uhr)

@Christian: How could I forget about Copyleft?

Precisely Copyleft PROVIDES protection for the commons, other „institutions“ don’t. But this doesn’t mean, that we can now simply say – „copyleft for everything“. It is not that easy. Don’t forget that this principles have to deal with ALL commons.

Hence there is no need to claim that the “openness” of open source/free software is insufficient.

I did not claim that. I say that it is not enough to fight for openess as such. Instead, we need to fight for the „protection of our possibility to keep sth. open in such a way that it cannot be reappropriated“, a small but important difference. And again: I talked about ALL commons, not only about knowledge and code. Commons need protection from reappropriation. I am sure you agree with me. And unconditional openess (which includes openess for enlosurers does not provide this protection.) I am a bit surprised, that you apply the principles only to so called „digital commons“. In fact, my most important point was to overcome the division between digital and „physical“ … That said: of course, „The same rule can be applied to more physical commons…“ This is precisely what I intended to do. Formulate principles for ALL commons.

5 Silke (10.06.2013, 14:38 Uhr)

puh, das mit den Absätzen bei Euch ist nach wie vor schwierig.
Hier ein PS, das das Ganze ausführlicher erklärt.
http://commonsblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/commons-brauchen-schutz-jenseits-von-open-access/

6 Christian Siefkes (11.06.2013, 19:27 Uhr)

@Silke:

Precisely Copyleft PROVIDES protection for the commons, other “institutions” don’t. But this doesn’t mean, that we can now simply say – “copyleft for everything”. It is not that easy. Don’t forget that this principles have to deal with ALL commons.

OK, i had understood you as saying „commons need protection, and we don’t really know how to protect them yet.“ If you actually said „in some cases we know how to protect the commons (e.g. copyleft), in other cases we don’t,“ then I agree with you.

And of course we cannot say “copyleft for everything” — all commons are different, and so there can (and must) be lots of different protection mechanisms too.

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