Grand Alliance for the Commons

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The grand alliance for the commons: the task of 21 cy. politics

By Michel Bauwens, 2nd April 2010

In my writings on P2P Theory, I have a rather simple, but I believe true, formula to describe the crisis of the global system of neoliberal capitalism.


- i.e. based on a false belief that nature is infinitely abundant as a resource to be used by humanity, without regard for the finitude of our planet, the necessary cycles of renewal in nature, etc… Nature is an object to be depleted, and for waste to be dumped in. This is what I call ‘pseudo-abundance’

- i.e. based on the false belief, disproved again and again by studies, that the exchange of knowledge regarding innovation, culture and science have to be restricted artificially, in an exaggerated manner that protects monopolies and their rent-based income. This is what I call artificial scarcity.

Hence a sustainable civilization or political economy needs to reverse both polarities. It needs to recognize the limits of the natural world and respect its cycles of regeneration, and it needs to relax its artificial scarcities to that knowledge and innovation can flow more freely to the whole of humanity. In fact, we cannot really solve the first problem, without tackling the second.

However, we could imagine solutions to the above, that would take place without regard for the welfare of humanity itself, i.e. that would not include the equally important requirement for social justice. Hence the need for a third leg for our stool.

We can translate these three tasks, reversing pseudo-abundance and artificial scarcity in the context of social justice, by looking at existing and emerging social movements.

The environmental movement, and all those other forces which are starting the integrate the demands for sustainability of our physical production, are the necessary allies for the protection of our biosphere.

The social justice movement is represented by the many social forces defending the interests of workers and farmers and for socially just structures, on the local, national, and global levels.

The peer to peer moment in history brings one more emerging social movement in this potential grand alliance: the movement for the free flow of knowledge, culture and innovation. This is the contribution of the free culture movement, of the open access movement, of computer hackers, and many other actors tackling artificial scarcity.

Each of these moments has its own related but complementary vision of a world centered around the commons and civil society. For the environmental movement, the earth and its resources are a commons whose sustainability has to be protected; the social justice movements wants to make sure that the fruits of the physical commons are distributed in a fair manner so that no part of humanity is excluded from the basic demands of well-being; and the free culture movements protects the digital commons of education, knowledge, science and innovation.

This is what the grand alliance of the commons is about: recognizing the joint interest of these grand social movements in the resilience, sustainability and thrivability of natural and human commons.

The creation of this grand alliance is the task of 21st century politics.

More Information

Polish translation: Wielki Sojusz na Rzecz Wspólnej Własności