Commons-Based Citizenship

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On the relation between local commons and Commons-Based Citizenship

Filippo Barbera, Nicola Negri, Angelo Salento:

"Local commons point to the relevance of collective efforts and choices of whole generations at all levels, from the local to the national territory, right down to the local neighbour-hood (Kohn 2016). The flourishing of human societies, in other words, derives both from individual initiative and from collective infrastructures that belong to everyone. In the FE perspective, framing local commons as the «civic infrastructure» of citizen-ship emphasizes actions at different territorial scales (including the national one) that are aimed at the de-commodification of goods and services which serve everyday needs. We have argued that the connection between local commons and «foundational» goods and services breeds effervescent rituals, enacting the ca-pacity for collective action and voice to include in the political agenda of Western capitalism the need to fill the voids opened in social reproduction by the crisis of industrial citizenship. We argued that these effervescent rituals connect daily-life needs to broader conceptions of a fair society. Following Michael Carolan (2017), we differentiate between actors of citizenship and those who hold the status of citizenship: «The latter category refers to citizenship as a bundle of legal rights and responsibilities, signifying membership in a State. It is something one has. Ac-tors of citizenship constitute subjects who are not citizens, in the aforementioned socio-legal sense, but still act as citizens, and some of those acts have the potential to engender articulations with questions of rights, equality, difference, justice, and democracy. Citizenship in this sense is something one does» (ibidem, 198). Actors of citizenship, the argument goes on, can be divided in «active» and «activist» citizens. Active citizens are involved in non-conventional political participation, such as donating money to charities and community organizations, writing letters to the editor, and signing petitions. These activities are clearly impor-tant, but they have little capacity to stimulate novelty. Activist citizens, on the contrary, are «interested in challenging routine, understandings, and practices, which makes theirs a political project versus politics as usual» (ibidem). The difference between active and activist citizens, we main-tain, is built on the role of effervescent rituals. In the previous examples, the groups and social practices at the base of these rituals are quite heterogeneous. This heterogeneity does not im-pede collective action. Indeed, it aids it from a practical point of view. Firstly, because the comparison between heterogeneous groups aids plans of action that, for their very partiality, realize that the «right» action may mean that some questions are left unanswered (Vitale 2006). Collective action of «activist citizens» thus does not require a full moral agreement. Rather, all groups agree that collective action is important as such and, therefore, they agree that it cannot provide a comprehensive solution to all problems to be undertaken. Every concrete collective action has always some limits (not only cognitive but also moral) of sustainability and its consequences can generate frictions on the key moral values. Secondly, and related to this, the effective rituals of activist citizens in defence of the commons require a degree of creativ-ity and innovation. From this perspective, the heterogeneity of mobilized circles (de Vaan et al. 2014; Ramella 2015) decreases the probability that their actions might be subsumed within «business as usual» (Sassatelli 2015, 5). Heterogeneity is thus a key structural ingredient to spark Durkheim’s effervescent ritual situations, necessary to build a new model of citizenship rooted in local commons at the intersection of different scales. Certainly, the solidarity at the basis of this effervescence is quite different from «class» solidarity, typical of welfare capitalism. Nevertheless, it is the basis of the aspirations to flourish according to a «good life» in a «fair society», connecting everyday needs to large-scale aspirations and collective projects. Local commons are therefore potential centres of influence for the launching of a new model of citizenship (Crouch 2011; 2013) framed in the context of an assertive – not merely defensive – social democracy." (


See: Towards a New Vision of Citizenship based on the Foundational Economy of Local Commons

* From choice to collective voice. Foundational economy, local commons and citizenship. by FILIPPO BARBERA, NICOLA NEGRI, ANGELO SALENTO.