Thoughts on Development Politics and the Commons

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  • Article: Stefan Tuschen: Two Concepts, one aim? Thoughts on development politics and commons


"What links development policy and commons? Dealing with both debates, one can identify quite some common ground. Many questions that are taken up within the commons debate are of great relevance in developing countries. Does the concept of commons offer perspectives for the political work on development?

Commons do not exist by themselves. They have to evolve, been taken care of and developed further. It is the community using a resource in common that turns this resource into a common in the first place. Commons are not just a concept for the Global South. And when it comes to politics, commons are not just of interest for the development sector. Even though or precisely because of the fact that commons can not offer a one-size-fits-all solution to all problems: today commons, when understood as an anti-thesis to the neoliberal globalization mainstream, provide a perspective beyond the state and the market. And what also marks up the commons debate is that a global approach explicitly backs locally adapted, problem specific solutions. Hence it is not about following prefabricated patterns.

The commons approach does provide perspectives for development policy. Two aspects have to be highlighted: First, the concept of commons opposes the neoliberal economization of each and every aspect of life. Instead it points to alternative ways of problem solving. The commons concept is an interesting connecting factor for a development policy which – according to its self-image – stands at the side of the poor and marginalized, who are no well funded demanders.

Second, the commons approach turns the people's competence to solve problems against all patterns of catching-up as well as of sustainable development. Regardless of the need for global governance structures in favour of development, it is all about maintaining and creating (policy) space for communities enabling them to pursue their respective interests. This applies for the locally organized use of a forest as well as for the globally cross-linked use of an operating computer system."

In German

See: Michael Frein und Stefan Tuschen. Zwei Konzepte, ein Ziel?. Überlegungen zu Entwicklungspolitik und Commons