think like a commoner

think like commoner.png

(2014) by David Bollier

The commons is arising as a serious, practical alternative to the corrupt Market/State.



the commons is truly the new paradigm, the missing third link for the reform of civilization. but the commons is not a thing, but above all the expression of a cultural revolution and subjective changes. david bollier has done a great job of explaining the importance of this great cultural shift.. michel bauwens..


for jonathan rowe (1946-2011) whose beautifully insightful writings about the mysteries of he commons remain an inspiration



the commons is not a familiar cultural category. anything of value is usually associated w the ‘free market’ or govt. the idea that people could actually self org durable arrangements for managing their own resources and that this paradigm of social gov could generate immense value.. well, it seems either utopian or communistic, or at the very least, impractical.. the idea that the commons could be a vehicle for social/political emancipation and societal transformation.. as some commons advocates argue, seems just plain ridiculous

this is not ridiculous:  self org ing w/in an undisturbed ecosystem


confusingly ‘commons’ is both the singular and plural of the term, and some people make things even more confusing by using the word ‘common’ instead of ‘commons’

ie: (2017) hardt and negri in assembly

am thinking common ing.. even better..? the act of ongoingly augmenting interconnectedness.. like a listening (holmgren indigenous law)

i have learned how dangerous our ignorance of the commons is. it simply enables the private plunder of our common wealth, as the subtitle of my first book on the commons, silent theft, put it

we have so few words to name the pathologies of markets and the feasible commons based alts.. i like to think that by naming the commons, we can learn how to reclaim it.. we can learn to participate in acts of commoning w others.


the commons is essentially a parallel economy and social order that quietly but confidently affirms that another world is possible. and more: we can build it ourselves now..t

a quiet revolution

(the commons) seeks to build anew, or as buckminster fuller memorably put it ‘to change something build a new model that makes the existing mode obsolete’..t

sans money/measure.. or it’s still the existing one


that’s what a robust commons movement around the world is doing.. it seems poised to ‘go wide’.. because the various tribes of transnational commoners are starting to find each other.


some of us dare to imagine a common renaissance.. book i co edited w silke helfirch.. the wealth of the commons: a world beyond market and state.. documents the staggering international breadth and vitality of commons activities and advocacy


1- the rediscovery of the commons


during the green rev in 60s and 70s.. govts and foundations in the west made a big push to intro large scale commercial rice and wheat production in so called developing countries. this helped mitigate hunger in the short term, but also intro’d crops alien to many indian ecosystems.. and that require harmful/expensive pesticides.. also more vulnerable to drought and volatile market prices.. widely blamed for an epidemic of 200 000 farmer suicides over the past decade

farmer suicides

the women of erakulapally discovered the traditional crops are far more ecologically suited to semi arid landscape .. but to recover the old biodiverse ways of farming.. the women had to ask their mothers and grandmothers to search for dozens of old nearly forgotten seeds.. eventually, in attics and family safe boxes, they found enough seeds to do a planting, and finally, after many additional rounds of cultivation, revive their traditional ‘mixed crop’ agri..  planting 6 or7 diff seeds in same field which act as a kind of ‘eco insurance’..  no matter if there is too much or too little rain.. or too early/late.. some of the seeds will grow.. families will have enough to eat no matter the weather.. .. no need to buy expensive genetically modified seeds or synthetic pesticides and fertilizers

agri surplus


the recovery of traditional agri did not come thru ‘tech transfer’ or govt sponsored agri research . it came thru a do it yourself process of recovering the ‘people’s knowledge’ and deliberately encouraging social collab and seed sharing..

already in us.. holmgren indigenous law

‘our seeds our knowledge’.. every seed is a capsule of their knowledge.. no one is allowed to by or sell seeds; they can only be shared, borrowed or traded

seed freedom ness

the seed sharing commons of andhra pradesh illustrate an important feature of commons: they can arise almost anywhere and be highly generative in unlikely circumstances. there is no master inventory of commons..t..  they arise whenever a community decides it wished  to manage a resource in a collective manner w a special regard for equitable access, use and sustainability..

the title of this chapter ‘rediscover’ has a certain ironic edge because of 100s of millions of people around the world, the commons has never gone away.. it has been a part of their daily lives for centuries..  but these commons, like those of native americans and other indigenous peoples, have often been regarded, even today, as invisible or trivial.. as most economists will tell you, only markets have the power to meet our essential needs..


the path to understanding the commons requires a willingness to think in particulars, see the creative potential of social relationships and surrender the search for abstract universals and predictable certainties..

ie: improbable circumstances that give rise to one of most successful, widely used software programs in history.. the commons known as gnu/linus.


showed… amateurs could create highly complex ness and.. that the internet is a highly productive hosting infra for social collab..t

imaging it for hosting-life-bits from cure ios city .. ie: 2 convers as infra


linus experiment proved to be a foundational model for what is often known as ‘commons based peer production’  a type of online collab that invites huge numbers of people to join forces via open network platforms..

has to be online..?

the gnu/linux model of commoning was social pattern that later inspired collab projects like wikipedia..  and open access scholarly journals..  social networking.. crowdsourcing info and money..  open design ie: global village..


commons certainly include physical and intangible resources of all sorts, but they are more accurately defined as paradigms that combine a distinct community w a set of social practices, values and norms that are used to manage a resource. put another way, a commons is: a resource + a community + a set of social protocols.. the three are an integrated interdependent whole..

seen from this perspective, the question is not whether pink lake in senegal or genomic databases on the internet are commons, but rather whether a particular community is motivated to manage such a resource as a commons; and can it come up w the *rules, norms and enforceable sanctions to make the system work..t

whoa.. i think *that’s not commons/commoning.. setting selves up for tragedy of a diff color

commoning begs an undisturbed ecosystem


when put this way, it is interesting to consider the improbable types of common pool sources that can be governed as commons

see i think it has to be everything/everybody.. or it won’t work.

ie: surfers on north shore of oahu hawaii..  at banzai pipeline beach.. likened to mt everest of surfing.. .. enormous competition over who is entitled to ride which waves.. and resentment against outsiders who don’t respect the surfing protocol that the local crowd has developed

to me .. 1\ sign they don’t really love the art.. 2\ most people (outsiders) aren’t themselves.. if we all were .. if we had eudaimoniative surplus.. only people doing things like that would be fellow artists.. who grokked a ie: surfing/water protocol.. from within.. (ie: holmgren indigenous law).. also.. 3\ thinking of parts of nature.. ie: the everest of..  is just as damaging as our obsession with a misguided ‘gifted and talented’.. ‘genius’ bent


who is the more legit steward of the pipeline..  the local surfing fans or the state authorities.. wh have the legal authority to manage the beach

no one.. if first.. we are all truly free.. (we can’t believe that no one would be.. we automatically thing of chaos/tragedy/danger.. because we’ve not yet seen us all being truly free.. has to be all of us.. has to be 100% free  – ie: free\dom ness)

the wolfpak commons resembles certain boston neighborhoods that have come up w their own rules of managing street parking during the snowy winter months..  when boston is hit w big snow, it immediately becomes harder to find a place to park your car on the street

this is not a commoning problem.. this is a symptom of our intoxication into ie: capitalism/consumerism/civilization et al..

this would not be an issue of we were all truly free.. so not a good ie.. (so to me.. i don’t see group rules as a necessity here.. again.. ie: undisturbed ecosystem:

in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’


so in some neighborhoods, residents have developed a shared understanding that if you take the trouble to shovel out several feet of snow to create a parking space for your car, you are entitled to park there until the snow melts..  people indicate their right to park in a give space by putting a rust old folding chair or other battered household item in the empty parking spot..

this is not commoning.. dang..

ie: rights, entitlement.. can’t be a part of commonig.. and the work the land in order to own it.. dang.. property (hardt/negri property law.. wilde property law) – even a temporary parking space – is a huge disturbance to an undisturbed ecosystem

prof elinor ostrom once told me that this was a commons. i was perplexed. how? why? she explained that the neighborhoods’ self org’d rules for parking.. rep a ‘shared understanding about the allocation of scarce use right’.. in this sense, it is a commons.. like wolfpak’s waves and boston neighborhoods .. case of successful self gov..

yeah.. i disagree w elinor as well..  and perhaps why we haven’t yet gotten back/to a global commons – because we keep mis rep/understand ing what it is


govt calls this – taking matters in own hands.. and tend to be jealous of their authority and hostile to even small incursions.. on other hand.. can provide types of *management and order that govt bureaucracies and formal law cannot.. ie: snowplows may not reliably clear.. parking rules unreliable or expensive.. et al

*management and order.. not commoning.. dang

ie: carhart-harris entropy lawentropy suggests a gradual deterioration of a hard won order.. it may be that some brains could stand to have a little more entropy, not less

their informal governance may in fact outperform official form of govt

is that the point.. (out) performance.. ? i thought it was commoning.. sharing..

so ie: success would be that the rule of the folding chair wins.. and since the guy shoveled.. the space remains empty (except for the chair) if anyone else might use it.. just as a holding place..? much like putting unauthorized homeless on hold.. by saying.. building can’t be occupied.. et al

in fact, as w explicit negations among commoners become so engrained that they settle into habit, custom becomes a kind of invisible ‘vernacular’..

yeah.. that’s dangerous.. not good for humanity/commoning..

ie: punishing those who cut in line.. they constitute an implicit mode of commoning for managing access to limited resources..


each of commons described above arose spontaneously, w/o the direction or oversight of centralized institutions or govt

well actually not spontaneous.. and yes.. govt – of a few people

each is committed to a larger collective purpose while also providing personal benefits for individuals..

see.. it’s got to benefit the whole.. the big whole.. the all of us whole.. or it won’t work..

none is driven by a quest for money or personal fortune, at least not directly

i’d disagree with that.. i see ie: quest for money/personal fortune as a measuring ness.. as i see the cutting in line and who can park here.. et al.. all the same .. as far as damage/disturbance.. to the whole..

we’re not going meta enough.. to me.. commoning has to be total meta.. ie: everyone..


the beauty of the commons as a ‘rediscovered’ paradigm .. it embodies certain broad principles – such as democratic participation, transparency, fairness and access for personal use..  but it also manifests itself in highly idiosyncratic ways..t

i don’t see democratic participation and fairness .. as commoning.. they’d become irrelevant if we were truly commoning..

i don’t think any of this is going idio enough.. (and today we can go that far.. ie: listening to 7bn voices.. everyday)

*a commons is like a living organism in that it co evolves w its environ and context.. it adapts to local contingencies..t

contingency (a future event or circumstance that is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty.)

i agree with that statement.. but i don’t think what i’ve read so far does.. what i’ve read so far.. (and see in the world so far).. is *not zooming out enough to get a legit fractal.. of the whole..  ie: organism as fractal.. wouldn’t repeat.. it would ongoingly emerge

the diversity w/in unity principle that commons embody is what makes the commons paradigm so versatile and powerful and so confusing to conventional economists and policymakers..

i think it’s hard for any of us to grok the diversity we need in order for an undisturbed ecosystem to dance.. and that’s why we keep holding on to order..

what’s critical in creating any commons.. is that a community decides that it wants to engage in the social practices of *managing a resource for everyone’s benefit.. this is sometimes known as commoning..t

i don’t see managing as commoning.. this goes with the point you just made.. about diversity/idio ness..  if we get to the fractal that is truly fractal of the whole (ie:organism as fractal)..  we’re at a ginorm/small ness.. where managing becomes irrelevant.. it’s more about everyone listening (as it could be) and trusting..  ie: once you make rules.. if you believe in the diversity/idio ness.. the context has changed before you could even repeat the rule..

peter linebaugh: ‘*there is no commons w/o commoning‘.. important point because it underscores that the commons is not only about shared resources; **it’s mostly about the social practices and values that we devise to manage them

i’d add..*there’s no commoning unless it’s 100%

**10 day care centers ness as one ie of small compromises

commoning acts as a kind of moral, social and political gyroscope. it provides stability and focus

i don’t see stability and focus as a part of commoning..  i see spontaneity and antrifragility and whimsy.. which all require being present to the hearing/listening..  as a part of commoning


when people come together.. a body of practical knowledge and traditions, a set of productive social circuits *emerges

*that’s key.. but to me.. emergence.. implies.. ongoingly emerges.. so.. productivity.. knowledge, traditions.. becomes dangerous/compromising and/or irrelevant

they create enduring patterns of social energy that can accomplish serious work..

what we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people.. and see that happening via daily (always changing) cure ios city.. not via enduring patterns..

2 – tyranny of the ‘tragedy’ myth


the tragedy of the commons is one of those basic concepts that is drilled into the minds of every undergrad , at least in econ courses. the impossibility of collective action.. once the class has been escorted thru a ritual shudder, the prof whisks them along to the main attraction, the virtues of private property and free markets..

tragedy of commons

the catechism is hammered home: individual freedom to own and trade private property in open markets is the only way to produce enduring personal satisfaction and social prosperity.

hardin explains the logic this way: we can overcome the tragedy of the commons thru a system of ‘mutual *coercion, mutually agreed upon by the **majority of the people affected’.. for him the best approach is ‘the institution of private property coupled w legal inheritance’..

*coercion ness

**public consensus always oppresses someone(s)


over past several decades.. tragedy of commons has taken root as an eco truism.. no wonder so may consider the commons w such glib condescension. the commons = chaos, ruin and failure

remembering when suggestion to name the lab .. commons.. got shut down


there is just one significant flaw in the tragedy parable. it does not accurately describe a commons.. hardin’s fictional scenario sets forth a system that has no boundaries around the pasture, no rules for managing it, no punishments for over used and no distinct community of users..  but that is not a commons. it is an open access regime, or a free for all  a coons ahs boundaries, rules, social norms and sanctions against free riders.. hardin was confusing a commons w ‘no man’s land’  and in process, he smeared the commons as a failed paradigm fo managing resources

i don’t see boundaries, rules for management.. et al .. in commoning


the premise of the social experiments (tragedy of commons; prisoner experiment;..) is rigged at the outset.. certain *assumptions about the selfishness, rational calculation of individuals and lack of context (test subjects have no shared social history or culture) are embedded in to the very design of the ‘game’.. test subjects not allowed to communicate.. develop bonds of trust.. shared knowledge.. given only limited time and opp to learn to coop.. isolated in a lab setting..

black science of people/whales et al

*p 27


happily contemp scholarship has done much to rescue the commons from the memory hole.. elinor ostrom deserves special credit for her role.. a child of the depression, ostrom had always been interested in cooperative institutions working outside of markets..


she and husband vincent ostrom.. initiated a new kind of cross disciplinary study of institutional systems that manage ‘common pool resources’ or cprs

manage.. not part of commoning

hardin himself later acknowledge that he should have entitled his essay ‘the tragedy of an unmanaged commons’ ..t..- an oxymoron, but never mind

the tragedy of thinking commons has to be.. or could be.. managed..

undisturbed ecosystem:

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’

what distinguished ostrom’s scholarship ..was her painstaking empirical fieldwork she visited communal landholders in ethiopia, rubber tappers in the amazon and fishers in the philippines..  asking .. how did you come to establish this limit on the fish catch? *how did you deal w fact that people might try to get around it


*isn’t that the same as what you said earlier about assumptions of people being selfish from p 25

from such empirical findings, ostrom tried to figure out what makes for a successful commons..

first.. everyone has to be truly free.. ie: in spaces of permission w nothing to prove

how does a community overcome its collective action problem..t

stop insisting on collective (consent-ive) action.. and start just listening to daily curiosities.. and facil ing that

the recurring challenge she wrote, is figuring out how to ‘org and govern themselves.. to obtain continuing joint benefits when all face temptations to free ride, skirt, or otherwise act opportunistically..

2 convers.. as infra


parallel question have to do w the *combos of variables that will 1\ increase the initial likelihood of self or  2\ enhance the capabilities of individuals to continue self org efforts over time  3\ exceed the capacity of self org to solve cpr problems w/o **eternal assistance of some form

*undisturbed ecosystem

**eternal assistance..? the energy of 7bn alive people

ostrom’s answer was – governing the commons – a landmark 1990 book that set forth some of the basic ‘design principles’ of effective, durable commons..

why design?

ostrom nonetheless showed how, in 100s of instances, commoners do in fact meet their needs and interest in collective, cooperative ways (standard econ.. declares we are selfish.. idea that we can depend on people’s altruism and coop as naive and unrealistic)


ostrom found that commons must have clearly defined boundaries so that commoners can know who has authorized rights to use a resource..

i think this isn’t right.. (can’t be exclusionary.. has to be all of us) .. i think if we could meta on this.. with enough people.. feeling truly free.. we would see (meaning.. i’m not doubting she thought that worked.. it was meeting criteria she was looking for.. but if it was truly commoning w a rep fractal.. i think we’d have global commoning by now

outsiders who do not contribute to the commons obviously have no rights to access or use the common pool resources

we have no way of seeing all the contributions..  ie: who’s defining/measuring them when there’s never nothing going on..? this dance is bigger than any of us.. and we have to trust that commoning needs everyone.. no matter  how they appear to us (inside/outside et al).. or it won’t work

commoners must be willing to monitor how their resources are sued (or abused) and must devise a system of sanction s to punish anyone who violates the rules..

commoning isn’t about monitoring.. that’s like night and day..

it must be emphasized th a ostrom did not regard her 8 principles as a strict blueprint for successful commons, but rather as general guidelines.. it is also important to note that she focused primarily on small scale natural resource commons.. she did, in the latter stages of her career, explore the problems of large scale regional or global commons and digital commons.. but *these were secondary concerns during most of her working life..t

i see global as *primary.. not in the sense of any principles.. (other than 2 convers as infra).. but in the sense that it has to start from the get go.. to include everyone..


ostrom gets nobel in 2009 – i like to think that the prize committee was spooked by the 2008 fin crisis and wished to shine a light on the profusion of alts to markets..

nobel ness

besides analytical platform for studying commons.. ostroms’ most lasting accomplishment maybe her role in building a global network of commons scholars.. workshop in political theory and policy analysis at indian uni… which ostrom co-founded w her husband in 1973.. she also founded digital library of the commons  and international assoc of the study of common pool resources..

so.. all these guys are worshiping her ie: 8 principles.. are they questioning them..? i mean .. if she founded this.. how do you question the leader..?


as an outside to the guild she could more readily see.. that free market theories fail to explaint

yeah.. maybe it’s time to take that ‘could readily see’ ness a step beyond..

interestingly her prominence in the field came mostly after nobel..

the commons properly understood, is about the practice and ethic of sufficiency

affluence w/o abundance

i think what made her such a fertile thinker: she was open minded and willing to engage w people and phenom on their own terms, unencumbered by the deep prejudices of econ theory..  yet ostrom nonetheless operated w/in the standard econ framework and its assumptions about ‘rational actors’ and ‘rational design ‘ in the construction of commons..

again.. perhaps it’s time to go beyond.. to me.. it’s certainly time in terms of capabilities.. ie: we can now unleash the energy of 7bn alive people.. by listening to each one.. (tech as it could be).. everyday.. (makes concepts like .. decision making.. irrelevant)

ostrom also tended to approach commons in a functional, behavioralist way, and had less interest in the intersubjective, psychological dynamics that might animate commons..

this could be a huge point.. i’m thinking mostly.. that in regard to behavioralism.. we’re currently much like whales in sea world..  and again.. now that we have the means to go beyond that.. deeper.. to the root of the problem.. we can address behavioral from the aspect of authentic people..


the language and scholarship to describe what has always existed in unselfconscious, unnamed ways is becoming more culturally visible..t

yeah .. that’s cool.. what’s already there. that’s why i believe we can leap to it.. with just a nudge..

i like to think of this as a vernacular movement.. more than a political or ideological .. the term vernacular given special meaning by ivan illich in his 1981 book – shadow work..  as a critic of the dehumanizing tendencies of institutions, illich saw vernacular spaces as informal cultural zones where people naturally come to their own moral judgments and act out of their own sovereign humanity.. t

indeed.. undisturbed ecosystem:

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’


the vernacular flourishes in the realm of housholding and subsistence and of family life and child rearing..

rev of every day life

in the city.. as the day..


the commons is a fragile social institution and sensibility that naturally arises from vernacular if driven by a life force..

i don’t see commoning as fragile.. i see it as antifragile..

govts  and bureaucracies are often way of the commons as an independent potentially threatening power base,

again.. remembering initial desire to name the lab commons.. and the shut down of that crazy idea

too much

preferring the certainties and rewards of market based allies..  govt generally prefer to manage resource thru strict standardized systems of control..

why we haven’t yet gotten to global equity

to them, commoning appears to be altogether too informal, irregular and unreliable even if the actual successes of commons refute tha prejudice..

could stand a shot of entropy.. to tackle our hard won order

3 – enclosures of nature


the privatization and commodification of our shared wealth is one of the great unacknowledged scandals of our time..  this is often called.. the enclosure of the commons


enclosures are a special form of theft that attract little notice, in part because govts often play a key role in legitimizing them..

the goal is to treat people as individuals and consumers, not as communities w shared, long term, nonmarket interests


the more we depend on money and markets to satisfy our needs and follow our desire the more we are exposed to a vicious circle of dependency that pits livelihoods against each other – massimo de angelis (@mda_commoning) – commons scholar


broken feedback loop


karl polanyi was an econ historian who studies this unique transition in human history  – the end of the commons and the rise of markets and enclosures.. (1600s to 1800s) in his 1944 classic .. the great transformation

as enclosures proceeded in the 17th thru 19th centuries, production and profit became the central organizing principles for society..

see.. production..  hand in hand w profit

this required that numerous resources – esp land, labor and money – be redefined as commodities.. polanyi called these ‘fictional commodities’ because human life and natural ecosystems cannot really be broken into fungible substitutable units..

markets require that nature’s gifts, labor and money be treated as commodities if they are to be assigned prices and made suitable for trade and speculation

too much

soon expanded to other realms… making virtually everything subject to purchase and sale..  necessities of life.. once available thru commons.. now only be acquired thru the market at a price

polanyi characterized the history of enclosure as ‘a revolution of the rich against the poor’


i could easily cite dozens of additional types of enclosure..  i turn now to two classes of enclosures that don’t get that much attention: private takeover of urban spaces and infra (ch 4) and appropriations of knowledge and culture (ch 5)

4 – enclosures of public spaces and infrastructure


sports stadia naming rights


starbucks’ enclosure of the coffee shop experiences in the us is revealing..


schultz: one of the results (of making sure we had roi).. has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs the warm feeling of neighborhood store

schultz cannot quite admit that branding is precisely about creating a monoculture – the commodification of experience: the exact opposite of what a commons provides..  ads on gas pumps.. school buses.. et al


pulska grupa uses the language of the commons to help reassert a moral entitlement to public spaces

ugh.. entitlement..

in rudimentary sense, that is what the occupy movement was all about too..


net neutrality..


the handmaidens of enclosure  -stealth, complexity, and persuasive cover stories – remain all too familiar..

5 – enclosures of knowledge and culture


ie: happy birthday.. song written in 1858 by two sisters.. originally intended for schoolchildren.. will remain a piece of private property until it enters the public domain in 2030.. 172 yrs after its ‘original’ creation

warner music group rakes in about $5000 a day in royalties or nearly $2million a year..


marketization of unis – supposed to be cultural commons.. of medicine.. patents.. big pharma thrives.. while patients more likely to die


taxpayers financed research that produced treatments.. but patents belong to corps and shareholders.. not us.. then too defines what methods gets studied in medical/agri.. courses


let me stress: it is entirely possible for markets and commons to ‘play nicely together’..

? i don’t think so

perhaps play nicely together.. but there’s no way that would include everyone.. and it has to be everyone.. from the get go


our most urgent challenge is to find better ways to protect the integrity of the commons and the value that they quietly produce.. t

ie: a nother way.. via gershenfeld something else law

6 – the eclipsed history of the commons


colorful personalities and idio lore of a community start to fade away


these sciences are confirming that social reciprocity and trust are deeply engrained principles of our humanity.. they may even be biologically encoded..t

i don’t think reciprocity is.. i think we got that along with all the measureing ness.. it’s just nicer than what we have today.. so we glob it on as natural..


so too.. confirming cooperation rather than selfishness..


and individual function w/in complex system of interdependence..

ostroms research  unearthed an ethnographic reality: that commons can *persuade individuals to limit their narrows self interests and support a larger collective agenda..  evolutionary scientist are confirming these claims.. at the more elemental level of genetics, bio, neuro, and evolutionary psych..

i’d say.. not so much that commons persuades it.. rather.. that that mindset (of interconnectedness) is already in us.. and we’ve covered/removed/compromised it w ie: capitalism/market et al.. so more.. commons allows us to just be us


if we are to understand the law of the commons, we must start by expanding our notion of law itself. law is not just formal ,written and institutional; it is also informal, oral and social.. the law of the commons  represents something of a threat to forma l aw because its substance and legitimacy derived from the always shifting social practices of the community..’commoning’ is often experienced as more *responsive and morally legit than state law..

i’m thinking commoning is simply more alive/eudaimoniative.. *responsive is a dangerous place.. we risk not being our selves..  and.. thinking we have to answer/respond to laws..

david r johnson: likens law to a biological organism.. ‘law is a story we tell each other about justice and shared social values.. we have to retell this story every day – it replicates and persists only in so far as we do that’..

i would say.. it doesn’t really replicates.. it iterates/changes.. daily.. that’s why to me.. equity is everyone getting a go everyday.. every day a new..

this is essentially how the law of the commons works.. a given community creates its own body of (informal social) law to suit its needs ,then replicates it thru everyday social activities..

i don’t know.. i think  coming at it from this angle.. makes us focus on rules/meetings/consensus more than living. i see commoning as living .. sans bureaucracy


peter linebaugh: ”how will this land be tilled? does it require manuring? what grows there? might call it a natural attitude’

yeah maybe that.. i don’t know

custom is therefore a vital element of the law of the commons..

? i don’t know.. i think we can hear ancient wisdom w/o custom izing it..

i think if we have customs.. 1\ we think we need to learn before we can be/hear.. 2\ we stop listening.. 3\ we become antifragile.. by paying more attention to the customs than the aliveness.. ie: holmgren indigenous law

it functions as a cultural code that provides a unifying social ethic to a community

i think the unifying social ethic is already there.. in us.. and changing.. with us.. i think if we create a code.. that stagnates us.. gets us off sync w our interconnectedness

david johnson: if law has a life of its own.. we should be studying its biography rather than pretending that we can design and repair its mechs from the outside’

rather.. we should just listen to it.. studying would get in the way


it amounts to an evolving social contract.. individuals come together to negotiate the rules and norms that will govern their community

i don’t see that as commoning.. i see that as what we do now .. and it’s clearly not working.. ie: meetings, decision making, consensus, contracts, .. ugh..

(words after that last sentence: rules, norms, govern, how members may access, managing, monitoring, punishing, ..)

not commoning


given the scale of commercial dealings and the power of transnational corps .. state reg is absolutely necessary; conventional commons are too small, unorg’d and lacking in resources to assure socially responsible outcomes..

i disagree.. i think we just haven’t tried true commoning yet


to be sure, many grassroots movements have develop a modest independent sector of cooperatives and mutual association. unfortunately these alt provisioning systems have generally failed to reach a meaningful scale..t

not because we can’t..  we just haven’t let go enough yet.. haven’t gone alt/meta enough.. and we can’t do/be commoning part\ial.. (for (blank)’s sake).. it’s a totality dance


some of the most astute commentators on these problems are autonomous marxists such as massimo de angelis; george caffentzis; silvia federici; peter linebaugh; michael hardt; toni negri’

massimo, michael, toni

each in diff ways has noted that the core problem of unfettered capitalist markets is their tendency to erode the authentic social connections among people and to liquidate the organic coherence of society and individual commons.. capital breaks commons into their constituent parts – labor, land, capital, money – and treats them as commodities whose value is identical w their prices..

7 – the empire of private property


people like to think of property as a fairly self evident category.

people assume it’s a given.. but it’s not only not a given.. it’s cancerous  ie: hardt & negri property law.. wilde property law


private property rights serve all sorts of useful proposes of course.. and over course of history have served to emancipate people from the tyranny of kings, aristocrats and authoritarians.. but it is also true that the private property law can be a nasty form of oppression and coercion in its own right..

always.. property is the problem.. hardt & negri property law:

the problem w property is not merely that some have it and some don’t. private property itself is the problem.

private property rights are not necessarily hostile to functioning commons.. t

hardt & negri property law:

the problem w property is not merely that some have it and some don’t. private property itself is the problem.

not just property.. but rights too..


john locke: humans  w sweeping rights of personal entitlement to resources based up on the labor they invest in the developing them.. this is locke’s ‘labor theory of value’..

ugh.. no rights/entitlements.. no measuring amount of assumed/visible labor


capitalism is about the engineering of scarcity.. commoners strive to engineer a system of abundance..


price only measure exchange value.. it done’s really measure use value..

gdp.. doesn’t really care if activity is beneficial to society .. doesn’t even ask.. instead it just measure if money has changed hands..

8 – the rise of the digital commons


(on lessig creative commons et al).. community colleges were dismayed to learn that many students were dropping out or delaying their ed because they could not afford their text gooks..


2001 – mit free online

9 – many galaxies of commons


indigenous peoples have developed remarkably stable sociological models precisely because they focus on long term social relationship, not irregular market transactions.. westerners often dismiss indigenous peoples’ commons out of hand because they are not based on strict individualism, private property rights and market notions of ‘value’ (ie: a price for everything).. as n bruce huthu, a leading scholar of native american law, has written, ‘the idea of property in the western tradition.. implies an orientation toward the market ouse of resources w/o special regard for the long term ecological consequences of the social meanings of nature to people; the price system presumes a basic equivalence among like priced elements of nature. societies that have a more direct, subsistence relationship to nature may therefore find property and market based sensibilities alien and even offensive..


human beings’ natural propensity co cooperate is a powerful source of innovation that has given rise to a rich variety of social and civic commons. a great ie is the international ‘time banking’ movements..

i don’t see time banking as commoning


so long as gifts continue to circulate among people, w/o a clear reckoning of what one is ‘owned’.. the social commons thrives


social commons are seemingly as spontaneous and diverse as life itself. they include community gardens and town festivals, civic associations and amateur sports leagues, ecovillages and co-housing and community-supported agri

that is life.. commoning is spontaneous, diverse, life..  if we could just let go of everything else.. all the order and such that keep getting in the way of us

cities are an esp fertile environ for social commons because of the great diversity and density of people there

in the city.. as the day..


the occupation of teatro valle (opera house in rome italy), still underway, has inspired other citizen groups to mount direct action protests that have reclaimed other buildings and spaces. instead of simply fighting privatization, aggrieved romans have come to realize that they need active ongoing self gov beyond rep gov

there are other more ambitious initiates to try to promote social commons in urban areas. urban designers nikos a salingaros, federico mena quintero and others are seeking to apply the principles of p2p production to urban environs.. ‘p2p urbanism’ as it is called, seeks to make city design and daily life more hospitable to ordinary people.

as a matter of principle, some commoners regard the ethic of the money econ to be fundamentally hostile to the ideals of commoning.. other commoners are more open to pragmatic relationships w markets so long as these do nut undermined the commons

money/measure.. does undermine commoning.. it disturbs it

so can market activity and commons coexist happily? my own view is that few commons can operate in total isolation from the rest of society

commoning can’t be in isolation.. it has to be all of us .. that’s why none of us can engage in money/measure..  if we want it to work.. if we want to get back/to an undisturbed ecosystem

virtually all commons are hybrids that depend in some measure upon the state or the market..t

that’s because we’ve not yet let go enough to get back/to authentic commoning..


finding a sustainable rapprochement (an establishment or resumption of harmonious relations) between commons and markets is a complicated challenge..

only thing sustainable is commoning..


michel bauwens has proposed that we reimagine the state and the market as a ‘triarchy’ that shares gov authority w the commons – the market/state/commons..  the state must shift its focus to become a ‘partner state’..

purists may object that gov managed systems for shared resources cannot truly be considered commons.. but we should remember that even commons such as open source software or academic research dependent upon govt and markets in all sorts of indirect ways. gov funding supported the development of the internet and still funds a vast amount of academic research.. the question is not so much whether markets or govts have some role in commons but rather to what degree and under what terms..

i don’t buy that..  it’s like saying.. not a question of whether sea world is natural to great whale.. but to what degree.. your ie’s are about money.. so assuming money is a given.. if money isn’t a given.. ie: govt funding becomes irrelevant..



we must devise legal innovations that can give the commons real standing in law.. until such things are achieved, the empire of capital will continue to impose its suffocating logic as widely as possible..

ugh.. unless we count 3&30 as law ie: 2 convers as infra

this truly is one of the enduring hallmarks of commons – their capacity to surprise..t

we have no idea..

10 – the commons as a different way of seeing and being


to andreas weber.. the commons is not simply a matter of public policy or econ.. it is an existential condition of life in all its forms, from cellular mater to human beings.. ‘the idea of the commons provides a unifying principle that dissolves the supposed opposition between nature and society/culture.. it cancels the separation of the ecological and the social.’  according to weber, the commons provides us w the means to reimagine the universe and our role in it..t



if we are to truly transform our economic and political systems, weber argues, then we must also address some unquestioned, deeply embedded premises of those systems.. in effect we must reassess the nature of reality itself..

ie: black science of people/whales.. and holmgren indigenous law

as creatures immersed in the liberal political paradigm and the principles of darwinian evolution, most of us implicitly see life as a fierce, competitive struggle and the econ as a kind of machine in which countless individuals strive to max their personal wealth and advantage. competitive triumph is all .. we also see implicitly.. a newtonian universe in which large abstract forces buffet the inanimate particle of nature. in his view, human consciousness and meaning are insignificant if not moot in the cosmic scheme of things


weber calls his new evidence based theory ‘biopoetics’.. both a metaphysics and bio theory that can explain ‘the deep relationship between felt experience and biological principles’..  weber argues that the ‘science of life’ as traditionally studied is no longer an adequate methodology for understanding living things..  conventional science fails to address the realities of consciousness and subjectivity in living organisms;..t


weber writes ‘only if we understand organisms as feeling, emotional, sentient systems that interpret their environs and do not slavishly obey stimuli, can we ever expect answers to the great enigmas of life’.. for him, biopoetics has the potential to provide ‘a new holistic account of bio as the interaction of subjects producing and providing meaning and hence laying the ground for understanding the meaningful cosmos of human imagination’

the commons is central to this vision.. only thru commoning do we start to reintegrate ourselves w nature and w each other..t


our challenge, weber contends, it so bring about a new ‘enlivenment’ a new type of rebirth to succeed the 300 yr old enlightenment.. our calling is to enact a vision of the universe that honors our subjective id’s and need for meaning as bio necessities…  we can do thisby engaging in ‘the ritual and idiosyncrasies of mediating, cooperating, sanctioning, negotiating and agreeing, to the burdens of and the joy of experience reality.. it is here where the practice of the commons reveals itself as nothing less than the practice of life‘.. weber.. t

spot on .. rev of everyday life

while weber’s biological theories, like the commons, remain outside of the mainstream, to me they help explain the deep visceral appeal fo the common paradigm

indeed.. already in us


to see the commons – to really see the commons – we need to escape the highly reductionist mindset of market based economics and culture.. t

exactly.. and why they can’t coexist.. it has to be all of us seeing this.. and not being compromised..

we have to learn to see .. that with the right social *structure and norms, this humanisitc ethic **actually works..

indeed.. ie: *2 convers.. as infra.. i believe that simply **modeling a nother way will be enough to get 7bn people to leap (global do-over).. since.. this is something already in each one of us.. something each of us is craving.. the missing holes.. ness

market culture has insidiously narrowed our imaginations.. by privileging the interest of private property, capital and markets and governing priorities, our very *language marginalized the idea of working together..t .. *toward common goals

indeed.. huge..  ie: *property is poison

common goals..? that’s scary.. only if it’s a&a.. 

it is perfectly possible to talk about the commons in conventional terms and not raise any bothersome questions about the prevailing frameworks of knowledge or worldview.. economists do it all the time.. they conflate the commons w ‘public goods’ treating them as things and ignoring the social practices of relationships that animate those things..  taking the commons seriously, means changing some of the ways that we see the world.. 

exactly.. i hope you mean that.. to the meta (aka: deep enough) level.. otherwise.. i don’t see any of this as commoning..


our culture and language do not equip us to see the humanistic and spiritual *roots of the commons. it is nonetheless possible to glimpse some very diff ways of seeing, acting and being in the world… raises some disruptive questions about the **basic assumptions of market economics and liberal democracy.. the commons challenges some of the myths that lie at the heart of liberalism, market econ and modernity..  the commons dares to challenge the commodity logic that enshrines price as the supreme arbiter of value and material progress as the linchpin of all progress..

*meta/deep enough:to get to the root/soul of all of us

indeed.. hard for us to see/grok.. since we’re currently whales in sea world.. more than anything.. i’d say it’s the **assumption that things need to be measured.. aka: managed..


james quilligan: ‘the notion of ‘goods and services’ in traditional economics is a reduction of the social relations among individuals – and of the individuals themselves – into commodifiable and fungible things. but a commons based economics raises the possibility of experiencing value thru the practical relationships that arise among individuals, the resources of the world, and that which exists between people and the world’

to talk of the commons is to validate this social coproduction as a constructive satisfying activity. it also questions the social order and relationships implied by private property rights.. ‘commoning must be entered into..  requires the posture and attitude and working alongside, shoulder to shoulder. that is why we speak neither of rights nor obligations separately’ – peter linebaugh

the power of a commons comes form the actual social practices that animate it. but these practices – the complex rules and methods for how a forest may be used; for how wikipedia entries are accepted and revised; for how irrigation waters are maintained and allocated in ne mexico – are highly specific, local an d contextual..

i’d say the power of commoning comes from not having rules/methods/allocations

norms cannot be easily generalized or made universal

some can.. and those are the only groundings (rules/methods/whatever) for setting us all free

this is precisely why it is so difficult to commodify the fruits of the commons w/o destroying the commons; its value is socially embedded and not readily converted to cash..  monetizing resources in a commons threatens to corrode the social relationship tha hold a commons together

so too does any time of measuring/validating/managing.. we have to all be 100% free.. and trust that.. or it’s not commoning.. it’s just trying to get along as best we can

no individual can acclaim to be the sole ‘author ‘ of collective resources.

so too w measuring/validating/allocating/managing.. who’s in charge of that.. and if you’re saying it’s a group decision.. you’re always leaving someone out..

this would certainly all be nicer that what we do today.. but .. since today we have the means to truly be commoning.. 100% of us.. we have to give that a go


the loss of diverse language around the world reps a major setback in humanity’s question to come to terms w the more than human world… native languages rep invaluable storehouses of particularized knowledge,.. ‘every language is an old growth forest of the mind’ – wade davis


imagining idio jargon as language.. so we can connect w anybody.. taking number of languages to infinity.. and blurring the need to train/prep/learn-a-language.. et al


commoners rarely presume that there is a fixed body of canonical knowledge whose authority must be respected.. they create their own (situational) types of knowledge thru engagement w each other and their common resources..

exactly.. we now have the means for 7bn to do that.. everyday..


for the time being, however, we don’t really have a rich typology of larger scale commons infrastructures.. t

we could.. ie: 2 convers.. as infra

we don’t really know how to design or build them.. such functions are usually considered the province of govt. but i think it is time for commoners themselves to imagine how infras and large governing protocol should be engineered..t

tech as it could be.. because.. you can’t hear me .. can you?

this could be politically difficult.. govts are jealous of their sovereignty and are not generally predispose to understand and support commons..t

that’s why it has to be for everyone.. inspectors included.. via gershenfeld something else law


this is uncharted territory for which the old rules and assumptions will have limited relevance..t

if any.. we have to let go.. this is exactly why we haven’t yet gotten to global equity (aka: global commoning)

11 – the future of the commons


it is tempting to patronize some commons initiatives as ‘too small’ to be significant’.. but the truth is that commons work best when they emerge organically over time in coordination w loca conditions and specialized needs

indeed.. but none of them/it will truly work.. last.. unless it’s all of us.. this begs a global reset.. which today .. we can do..

it is surely true that the govt, public policy and international law at the ‘higher’ levels must begin to provide legal and financial support to commons initiatives

perhaps just this: short bp

there is a need for infrastructures and platforms to let commons flourish and unleash enormously important local energies..t

indeed.. ie: 2 convers.. as infra.. via cure ios city.. because the energy we need most is the energy of 7bn alive people.. from the get go.. so that we’re energising in sync.. sync matters

there is a need for commons based innovation at national and regional levels, but also at the small levels, which are often patronized as ‘too small’ to be consequential, but which can collectively, over time, remake a society..

ginorm small.. but again.. we need a reset first.. (otherwise we’d have seen society remade by now)


the most urgent task is to devise durable and appropriate institutions for commoning..t

spaces of permission w nothing to prove.. aka: undisturbed ecosystem

the imaginary of the commons helps extricate us from this morass.. it provides the opp to start anew, w a diff conceptual foundation, ..

2 needsdeep enough


‘commons’ supposedly comes from the norman word commun, which comes from teh word munus, which means both ‘gift’ and ‘counter-gift’ which is to say, a duty.

i think this etymology gets to the nub of the commons. we need to recover a world in which we all receive gifts and we all have duties… this is a very important way of being human

oh no.. gifts and obligations as disturbances of commoning in an undisturbed ecosystem

i think gift and counter-gift/duty are just a kinder sounding description of what we have now.. dang

muflesh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity – Luma Mufleh  (not gifts and duties)


i invite .. to take this convo into new territory that may not have occurred to me..

just that now we have the means to listen to every voice.. every day..  (tech as it could be..)

we could have 7bn people commoning in no time.. (mostly because it’s already in us)

findings abstract


cure ios city

holmgren indigenous law

hardt & negri property law.. wilde property law

as it could be..

2 convers.. as infra

ie: hlb via 2 convers that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

the energy of 7bn alive people

undisturbed ecosystem:

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’

in the city.. as the day..

gershenfeld something else law


common ing.. aka: augmenting interconnectedness

let go of money/measure..



tragedy of commons


city as commons (policy reader)

Yochai, Stavros, Michael, Michel, David, Elinor, Andreas , Silke, …..

commons transition

the commons (doc)

the omni commons


city ness


perhaps.. give 1 yr to try commons (common\ing) a go..

in the city. as the day. ness

ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data.. as the day.. (aka: not partial)