Ten Theses About Global Commons Movement

[Diesen Artikel gibt es auch auf deutsch]

The International Commons Conference (ICC) which took place from Oct 31 to Nov 2 2010 in Berlin, was a mirror of the global commons movement. I try to outline this state from my viewpoint in ten theses.

1. The global commons movement exists as an assemblage of movements spread around the globe beginning to become aware of its global and interrelated character. As a global movement it is still establishing its own self-confidence rather than being a coherent agent.

2. The diversity of commons movements is their constitutive feature. They can be distinguished along numerous dimensions:

  • Type of resources and products:
    – natural: water, atmosphere, fossil fuels, renewable energy etc.
    – produced: music, movies, texts, software, designs, hardware, infrastructures etc.
  • Composition of resources and products:
    – material: natural goods, material products, digital carriers, infrastructures
    – non-material: knowledge, software, cultural goods
  • Cultures of dealing with resources and products
    – traditional: indigenous experiences and practices
    – generated: digitally based communication
  • Forms of self-organization (»governance«)
    – independent autonomous
    – institutional oriented
  • Relationship to market and state
    – affinity and connection to market and/or state
    – distance and independence from market and state

3. The diversity is expressed in different and partly opposing perceptions and approaches:

  • preserving vs. generating commons
  • natural vs. digital commons
  • independent vs. market-oriented vs. state-oriented commons
  • modifying market/state vs. replacing market/state
  • local money vs. no money
  • and much more

4. The different and opposing perceptions are mirroring the rudimentary stage of reflection and developing self-awareness. These are differences within the same.

5. What this same is wherein differences are visible is still unclear and will emerge stepwise as far as the practices of commons develop. Before that there is no necessity to move forward reflexively and theoretically. Learning by advancing. The further theses are thus speculative but justified.

6. The commons are objectively in opposition to capitalism, because they represent a different logic. Where they are successful, market can not evolve. Where they manage their own affairs, the state is not required.

7. The opposition against capitalist logic is commonly perceived but interpreted differently. The majority interprets commons as a supplement to market and state. The word »beyond« in the slogan »Commons Beyond Market and State« is read as »beside«. This is a justified reading for the current stage of development.

8. At the same time the commons are the sublation of capitalism. The commons do not only practically occupy fields where a market cannot grow any longer or where the market is pushed to the periphery of free areas, but they bring a new way of societally producing livelihoods into the world, thus a new mode of production. The new mode of production is not a special one concerning the mentioned diverse areas, but a general one.

9. The Commons transcend capitalism in a fourfold way: ending, fulfilling, preserving, elevating. They end the logics of exclusion of capitalism and replace them with inclusion as social principle. They fulfill the promises of individual unfolding of personality. They preserve meaningful achievements and products. They elevate human needs to the norm of societal mediation and its satisfaction to the meaning of societal life.

10. Commons potentially being a new form of societal production do not guarantee that they become prevalent. Nothing happens by itself, it has to be done. The process of becoming aware just has begun. But it has begun.

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