Commoning

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= the act of creating, constructing and maintaining a commons

Definition

"A verb to describe the social practices used by commoners in the course of managing shared resources and reclaiming the commons. Popularized by historian Peter Linebaugh." [1]

Description

Massimo De Angelis:

"Commoning, a term encountered by Peter Linebaugh (2008) in one of his frequent travels in the living history of commoners’ struggles, is about the (re)production of/through commons. To turn a noun into a verb is not a little step and requires some daring. Especially if in doing so we do not want to obscure the importance of the noun, but simply ground it on what is, after all, life flow: there are no commons without incessant activities of commoning, of (re)producing in common. But it is through (re)production in common that communities of producers decide for themselves the norms, values and measures of things. Let us put the “tragedy of the commons” to rest then, the basis of the economists argument for enclosures: there is no commons without commoning, there are no commons without communities of producers and particular flows and modes of relations. Hence, what lies behind the “tragedy of the commons” is really the tragedy of the destruction of commoning through all sorts of structural adjustments, whether militarised or not." (http://www.taller-commons.com/downloads/angelis.pdf)


Principles

Proposed by Tim Rayner:

'With all this interest in the commons, it is time that we considered the ‘ethos’, or way of being, that underpins the practice of commoning. I offer the following principles as contributions to this debate. If nothing else, they have helped me consolidate my own intuitions about commoning.

Commoning is based in four broad principles. These principles shape the psycho-symbolic space that is sustained by people who participate in commoning.

1. Plenitude: Commoning proceeds from a place of wealth. We do not need to accumulate more than we possess. Together we have all that we require.

2. Mutual benefit: Commoning hinges on a spirit of reciprocity and justice. My gain does not need to mean your loss. Genuine success produces mutual benefit.

3. Spiritual abundance: Commoning challenges us to discover our inner abundance and to add it to a shared stock of potential. The term abundance comes from the Latin ab-unda, meaning the wave, which overflows. Commoning requires us to cultivate the overflowing generosity that represents true spiritual health.

4. Transition: Commoning is a threshold activity. To make common is to participate in an unfolding movement for social change, with positive implications for politics, economics, and the planet. Each act of commoning – be it a matter of collaborative consumption, peer-to-peer production, open space technology, or democratic assembly – is an experimental contribution towards a new social and economic paradigm." (http://philosophyforchange.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/commoning/)


Discussion

Commoning as a political strategy:

1.

"the challenge is how to engage in a constituent process of new social relations, which can only be a process of commoning, able to keep at bay and push back the form of commoning predicated on capitalist relations and, therefore, capitalist value practices. One basic condition for meeting this challenge is that we face up a hard reality of what we are up against, that is capital as a social force and field of social relations that seeks to reproduce itself through boundless expansion. This means first, that struggle is both necessary for the subjects and ubiquitous across the social fields inhabited by capitalist relations. However, it also implies that struggle is the life-blood of the system’s dynamism.

Furthermore, second, this dynamism is predicated upon and produces a new vertical segmentation of the condition of reproduction of labour power. The “working class” is divided in a wage hierarchy and no ideological call for unity will ever bring the different segments to work together in the direction of a radical transformation of their production in common beyond capital, and therefore beyond their hierarchy. Struggle therefore is also divided across a wage hierarchy, which implies that the possibility of its capitalist governance, predicated on division and exclusion at a point of crisis, are quite broad." (http://www.taller-commons.com/downloads/angelis.pdf)


2. On Creating lines of flight, without capitalist landing:

"This is of course a crucial question for all those whose perspective is the sustainability of the “beginning of history”, the persistence and development in time of new forms of commoning, of producing in commons that push back those compatible with the selfpreservation of capital.

From the point of view of the subjects, the clash of value practices implies first of all a “refusal”, a “no” to indignity, as Holloway (2004) so clearly put it. However, we have an immediate problem on our hand. How can we refuse capital’s measure without actively and self-consciously participating in the constitution of other common measures? And how can we participate in this commonality without at the same time setting a limit, refusing capital’s measure of things and its drive to separate, subsume and co-opt? 7 The setting of a limit to the “beast” and the problematic of how to constitute and sustain the “outside” which is brought to life by the many struggles, are two inescapable strategic coordinates of the beginning of history." (http://www.taller-commons.com/downloads/angelis.pdf)


3. Value struggles

"The vacuum is filled with an ideological struggle that seek converted. In a Western urban environment this might be expressed in this way: capital wants you to eat meet, you must become vegan; capital wants you to earn money, you build a life-style without money; capital wants you to compete, you proclaim “solidarity”, and so on.

However expressive of real desires and processes of identities production that seek disengagement from capital’s value practices, an ideological struggle of this type can only produce, precisely, singular identities, individual and groups whose values system is predefined as ethical choice. But commoning is not only based on pre-existent values, preexistent “ethical” choices. The commoning we seek is also and most importantly a field of production of values, and the precondition for this production is that a wide range of different ethics, different cultures, different life-styles, and, as we will see, different power positions within the planetary wage hierarchy participate in the co-production of new systems of values, of producing what is of common value together." (http://www.taller-commons.com/downloads/angelis.pdf)


4. We have to avoid struggles that lead back inside the problematic of the end of history, not for the creation of an outside, a beginning of history:

"The bottom line of the discussion so far is that the minimum condition for alternatives to be able to both reproduce themselves and set a limit to capital is that they constitute processes of commoning through which cooperating subjects seek, establish, represent, and communicate a field of value production which is not only opposed to that of capital, but also propositive and constituent of new social relations at every occasion of struggle. In this sense, the process of commoning beyond capital is a process of destructive creation as opposed to the process of creative destruction of Schumpeterian memory. While for the latter the creation of the new and the correspondent destruction of the old is concerned with the mutation of the forms of capitalist social relations, we can understand the concern of destructive creation the destruction of these very capitalist relations and the correspondent creation of new forms of commoning predicated on different value productions. Here the emphasis is on the constituent processes of commoning other than capital, rather than on mutated forms of capitalist commoning." (http://www.taller-commons.com/downloads/angelis.pdf)


From The Production of Commons and the “Explosion” Class By Massimo De Angelis

Commoning Today cannot ignore Climate Change

Nathan Schneider:

"the ancient practice sometimes called “commoning”—that is, treating the means of livelihood as the common birthright of everyone. The whole world, after all, is ultimately God’s. Thus Gratian understood that by natural law omnia sunt communia—all things are common—and thus St. Thomas Aquinas held that poor people’s right to necessities trumps the property rights of the rich. Thus, alongside England’s Magna Carta came the Charter of the Forest, which ensured that the landless masses would have the right to sustain themselves with the fruits of common land. Thus Leviticus required that farmers leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor could live off the remains—and so, to protect the health of the land, every seven years it was to be left fallow.

Commoning was the original bulwark against poverty, an economic system built around meeting the needs of the poor and sustaining the environment. It was a natural fit for early Christians, many of whom were on the fringes of society. The medieval church went on to maintain churches and land for common use; it was no accident that with the Reformation came a surge in the enclosure of land into private estates.

Throughout history, commoners have had to fend off the urges of the wealthy to enclose common resources. “The pre-eminent challenge is to assure the greatest integrity of the commons, so that the fruits of commoning are not siphoned away by clever, covetous businesses and governments,” writes David Bollier in his essential new introduction to the commons, Think Like a Commoner. While commoning might coexist with a market or state, it is neither. Commons are governed by the customs of the poor, not the bureaucracies of the rich.

Today, movements framed around the commons are resisting attempts to privatize such essentials as water, seeds and medicines. Climate change itself results from a kind of enclosure—an economic system that allows polluters to treat the atmosphere as theirs to disrupt and profit from." (http://americamagazine.org/issue/commons-sense)