Introduction to the P2P Foundation Wiki Material about the Commons

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= What we share. Creations of both nature and society that belong to all of us equally, and should be maintained for future generations. The Commons has the potential to replace the commodity as the determining form of re-/producing societal living conditions. Such a replacement can only occur, if communities constitute themselves for every aspect of life, in order to take "their" commons back and to reintegrate them into a new need-focused logic of re-/production. [1]

This page was originally compiled as the Category page, and is devoted to the emergence of Commons in various fields.


"Our global economic system is now in grave crisis, threatening the entire planet, its institutions and species.

A new kind of common wealth is needed to protect the assets of Earth, resolve our private and public debts, and create a global society of justice, sharing and sustainability for everyone.

Our commons are the collective heritage of humanity — the shared resources of nature and society that we inherit, create and use. People across the world are now rediscovering these common goods and choosing to protect them for future generations.

Whether our commons are traditional (rivers, forests, indigenous cultures) or emerging (solar energy, intellectual property, internet), communities are managing them through unique forms of self-governance, collaboration and collective action. And in working together to preserve these resources, we are generating new standards of responsibility, mutual aid and sustenance for all beings.

Global Commons Trust promotes the creation of trusteeships, where the rights to our commons may be realized for the benefit of all." (

  1. Eight Points of Reference for Commoning. By Silke Helfrich.
  2. Is there a difference between the Common and the Public?
  3. Introduction to the Commons, the Tragedy of the Commons and the Tragedy of the Tragedy of the Commons
  4. The Commons - Typology of Stefan Meretz; Ten Theses About Global Commons Movement
  5. Establishing Global Commons Trust , Global Common Goods and a Commons Reserve Currency
  6. The Co-Governance and Co-Production of the Commons through Commons Trusts on the basis of Social Charters
  7. Replacing the scarcity-engineering of capitalist markets by the abundance engineering of the commons, see the Abundance - Typology and the Wealth Typology
  8. Introduction to Commons-centered economics. By Sam Rose, Paul Hartzog et al.
  9. Ryan Lanham proposes a set of P2P Commons Boundary Conditions
  10. In this article on Use Communities, Alex Steffen argues that sharing infrastructures are vital for sustainability
  11. Darryl Birkenfield: What is the Meaning of Being a Commoner?

  • Tommasso Fattori, proposals for Commons and politics/policy:
  1. Towards a Legal Framework for the Commons
  2. The Public - Commons Partnership and the Commonification of that which is Public‎‎

The Conceptual Field of the Common(s)

Aetzel Griffioen explains that:

"There is a spectrum of commonality ranging from the ontological common to the multitude and the global commons. In Dutch only, the root of all these words is the same. It stems from ‘maneg’, meaning many. Commoning is an art of the many."

Scale of organisation of commons Dutch translation
1. The common (ontology) Het gemene
2. The mean / the common (qualification) Gemeen
3. Common sense (affect) Gemene zin
4. Common ground (in-between) Gemeenschappelijkheid
5. Community (social group) Gemeenschap
6. Commons (organisation) Meentes
7. Common property (law) Gemeengoed
8. Municipality (embedding) Gemeente
9. The commons (economical domain) De meent
10. Multitude (population) Menigte
11. Global commons (ecology) Gemeengoed

On the Importance of Distinguishing Sharing Private Property vs. Commons vs. Public Property

From Natalia Fernández, translated by Steve Herrick:

"Municipal goods and services are not “commons,” and rental vehicle from a company-owed fleet is not “collaborative.” Confusing things only can lead to disillusionment and disappointment.

Anglo culture and the absence of public policies in the US tended to distort the terms “commons” and collaborative consumption/”sharing.” Municipal bicycle or car-sharing services, even though they may be shared in the sense that there is one vehicle and many users, don’t create any kind of commons, nor are they collaborative consumption. They are mere extensions of transportation services, no different from other public utilities when they are publicly owned, or from a car-rental company when privately owned.

The “commons,” that which is communal, is goods that belong to a community, a group of real people, a demos, that manages it jointly and directly. Public property is something else: it is State property.

But, isn’t public property, by definition, the common property of all citizens? Wouldn’t municipal public goods be, by definition, “communal?” No. Publicly-owned goods are managed through specific institutions that decide how they are used and where the profits go. Citizens don’t take part directly in management and decisions about these goods and their use. They are not communal.

The municipal bus business of any city can be a publicly-owned good, property of city hall, or of the wider region. But it is not a communal good. The classic example of communal goods would be the common lands of many towns, collectively owned by their users, who directly manage their use. The transportation business could be part of the urban commons if it was, simply, a cooperative of users. The “sharing economy” or collaborative consumption exists when the users share use of goods, while maintaining private ownership. If city hall or a company makes cars or bicycles publicly available (charging a rental fee) there’s no collaborative consumption. “Bike sharing” would be when you share the use of your bike(s) with others through a system of use management. If no one shares their personal property, there’s no “sharing” at all. In most municipal “biking” or “car-sharing” services, the bikes belong to a company or city hall itself. There is no collaborative consumption, but rather, hourly rental." (


The (Political) Values of the Commons

According to "On The Commons":

  • Equity is at the center — Everyone deserves a fair share of social and natural resources that belong to us together.
  • Sustainability is a priority — Our common wealth must be cared for so that it can serve everyone, including future generations.
  • Interdependence is cultivated — Cooperation and connection in our communities, around our world and with our living planet is essential for the future.
  • We Govern Together — Everyone is involved in gathering information, making decisions and exercising power.
  • All Are Responsible — Together we claim the power to repair inequity, restore our common inheritance and expand opportunities for human fulfillment and planetary resilience.
  • Ownership is Expanded — A more expansive view of belonging fosters broader understandings of what ownership means and new structures for how it works.
  • We Create Collaboratively — A spirit of common purpose lets us realize that abundance, not scarcity, prevails when we invite wider participation in our endeavors.
  • And we name and claim the Commons that Exist All Around Us — Right here. Right now. We don’t need to invent or to recreate it. We can see it, name it, claim it, protect it and expand it.

Twelve Key Assets of Ogallala Commons

Charlotte Hess: Mapping the New Commons

The Logic of the Market versus the Logic of the Commons

Market Commons

What can I sell?Exchange value

What do we need?Use value

Core beliefs Scarcity Plenty
Homo oeconomicus Homo cooperans
It's about resources (allocation). It's about us.
Governance Market-State Polycentric / Peer-to-Peer Governance
Decision making hierarchical horizontal
Command (Power, Law, Violence) Consensus, Free Cooperation, self-organization
Social relationships Centralization of power (monopoly)

Decentralization of power(autonomy)

Property Possession
Access to rival resources Limited by boundaries & rules defined by owner Limited by boundaries & rules defined by usergroups
Access to nonrival resources Made scarce (to ensure profitability) Open access (to ensure social equity)
Use rights Granted by owner Co-decided by user groups
Dominant strategy Out-compete Out-cooperate
For the resources


Conservation Reproduction & Multiplication

For the people Exlusion & Participation Inclusion & Emancipation
  • A similar comparative table is here

Problems associated with the different legal domains of the Commons

Commons Type Sample Legal Forms Sample Enforcement Vectors Sample Tensions Unsolved Problems
Atmospheric / Oceanic
  • Open sea doctrines;
  • Deep seabed mining rights; fisheries quotas and accords; global trade law;
  • Global administrative law (data-cooperation and sharing for the protection of common resources);
  • Liberalism & int'l trade law (WTO & free movement in a "race to the bottom")
  • Nominally governed by IL;
  • De facto governed by exercise of fiat enforcement powers on a selective state-by-state and case-by-case basis;
  • Formal indeterminacy creates conditions for the necessity of an official “arbiter” of rights

'right to fish'
'polluter pays principle'

'right to protect health, life and wellbeing of citizens and commons'
'right to free movement of goods'

Intellectual Commons
  • Open-source standards;
  • Creative Commons;
  • Liberal copyright/IP licence schemes (patent pools);
  • Whistleblowing
  • State-by-state enforcement;
  • Emergence of global best practices & norms;
  • Lex mercatoria

right to use -v- modify
Wikipedia ←→ Wikileaks
right to protect as critical national security infrastructure (Snowden) etc.

Spectrum Commons
  • Wireless spectrum auctions; propertarian rights regimes; negotiated rulemaking;
  • Net Neutrality debates
  • 1G–4G (state-by-state);
  • 5G (regional);
  • Small-but-growing global players (e.g., Starlink)

BigFirm -v- BigFirm Realpolitik
Great Firewalls
"Collect it all"

Capture by Industry;

Blockchain Commons
  • Freedom of speech;
  • Freedom of association;
  • Due process rights
  • Strong positive IL basis but mainly state-by-state enforcement;
  • Strong contractarian ethos, especially in consensus mechanisms & dispute resolution

propertarian rights regimes

property -v- contract -v- commons

Cartel Formation;

Civic Commons
  • "Natural & positive legal participatory rights;
  • Right to petition for redress of grievances;
  • Due process rights;
  • Neighborhood associations;
  • HOAs, collective security
  • Municipal enforcement;
  • Spotlight effects;
  • Nonprofit cooperatives;
  • Limited private right of action;
  • No meaningful regional / global enforcement

public -v- private (em. domain)

gross info asymmetries

Sunshine Acts -v- Ag-Gag laws

— taken from: Law of (Blockchain) Commons 3


Open access, zero access, and limited access commons

Peter Barnes distinguishes three types of commons regime: open access, zero access, and limited access

  • Open access has as
    • Guiding principle: 'the more the merrier'
    • Mgt rules and tools: free access, shared rules
    • Market variant: long IP
    • Example: Internet

  • Zero access has as
    • Guiding principle: no or harmless minimal use
    • Mgt rules and tools: no trespassing, no dumping
    • Market variant: none
    • Example: Wilderness

  • Limited access has as
    • Guiding principle: use, but don't diminish
    • Mgt rules and tools: fees, tolls and licenses
    • Market variant: cap & trade, polluters market
    • Example: Atmosphere, Water, Fisheries

Comparison of private vs common property features

From Peter Barnes:

Private property is:

  • Transferable: yes
  • Universal birthright: no
  • Expires at death: no
  • Beneficial ownership: 1$, 1 share
  • Voting Rights: 1$, 1 vote
    • of Future Generations: No stake
    • of Non-Humans: no stake
  • Priority goal of mgt: Maximize profit
  • Basic Mgt Entity: Corporation
  • Main Income Source: Corporate profits
  • Pays Dividends: yes

Common property is:

  • Transferable: no
  • Universal birthright: yes
  • Expires at death: yes
  • Beneficial ownership: 1 person, 1 share
  • Voting Rights: 1 person 1 vote
    • of Future Generations: legal stake
    • of Non-Humans: legal stake
  • Priority goal of mgt: preserve assets
  • Basic Mgt Entity: Trust
  • Main Income Source: Commons rents and fees
  • Pays Dividends: yes

Four outcomes:

See also: Commons - Typology

Michel Bauwens, a threefold typology of the commons

  1. Inherited Commons – e.g. earth, water, forests – are heavily under attack and becoming scarce commons. It doesn't have to be this way i.e. in Switzerland, Austria, Japan they are well managed under an agricultural commons, and have been protected for hundreds of years by good collective arrangements between the farmers.
  2. Immaterial Commons – e.g. Cultural, intellectual, enabled by the internet, makes it stronger and easier to do than before. Commoning in this sense can be abstract but when we do it around something we care about, whether its free software, open design or wikipedia this really creates a community of shared interest because its something that we all care about.
  3. Material Commons – that we which we co create e.g. common stock, common machinery. Think of zip-car, owned by a company but why not have the community own it. Then there is the Commons Car, claimed to be the first open source car, now one of many such projects."


From James Quilligan

in People Sharing Resources" [5]

  • Noosphere : indigenous culture and traditions, community support systems, social connectedness, voluntary associations,

labor relations, women and children's rights, family life, health, education, sacredness, religions and ethnicity, racial values, silence, creative works, languages, stores of human knowledge and wisdom, scientific knowledge, ethnobotanical knowledge, ideas, intellectual property, information, communication flows, airwaves, internet, free culture, cultural treasures, music, arts, purchasing power, the social right to issue money, security, risk management

  • Biosphere : fisheries, agriculture, forests, land, pastures, ecosystems, parks, gardens, seeds, food crops, genetic life

forms and species, living creatures

  • Physiosphere : the elements, minerals, inorganic energy,water, climate, atmosphere, stratosphere

Sam Rose and Paul Hartzog

offer the following typology for Commons based on different distributed infrastructures:

see also Seven Policy Switches By James Greyson

A proposed institutional framework for governing the commons at all scales

  1. Six Modules for the Institutions of the Global Commons‎‎
  2. Three Institutional Spheres of Commoning‎

Typology of Commons Regulation

things Access Regulation
Res nullius all non-regulated
Res privatae owner market-regulated
Res publicae public state-regulated
Res communes community peer-regulated


See also: David Bollier maintains an updated list of Commons-oriented projects.

Here are our articles on domain-specific commons, linked to the NORA model of Needs matched to Commons Provisioning:

Physical Commons:

  1. Agriculture Commons; Commons-Based Agricultural Innovation
    1. Urban farming: Urban farming for a sustainable food supply in cities, especially in communities suffering from food insecurity; see also: Urban Farming
    2. Rooftop gardening: Rooftop gardening makes use of roofs (often an underutilized resource!) for the purpose of producing food where it is needed – and often by whom it is needed. Most appropriate in urban areas where there is little land available; see also:Rooftop_Gardening
  2. Atmosphere Commons ; Atmospheric Commons
    1. Air to breathe: This page focuses on the need to breathe clean air, and its relationships to other needs.
    2. Air and Atmosphere: This page discusses air and atmosphere as a resource, and hence approaches to better management of pollution, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
    3. See also: Sky Trust; Sky Charter
  3. Energy as a Commons ; Energy Commons ; Energy from the Perspective of the Commons
  4. Environment as a Commons ; Environmental Commons
  5. Food Commons ; Food as Common and Community ; Food as a Commons
    1. Food: How to make sure everyone has sufficient and nutritious food, appropriate to their cultural preferences and tastes.
    2. [ Local food systems: Local food systems involve a combination of approaches to creating greater abundance of food, while also enhancing food security and providing for meaningful livelihoods.
    3. Local_Food_Systems
  6. Hunting Commons
  7. Infrastructure Commons; see also: Developing the Meta Services for the Eco-Social Economy
  8. Land as Commons
  9. Marine Commons
  10. Microbial Commons
  11. Pasture Commons, see the report: Crisis of the Pastoral Commons
  12. Petroleum Commons
  13. Seed Commons
    1. Seed Saving: Seed saving to protect crop genetic diversity and farmer livelihoods, and for gardening.
  14. Solar Commons
  15. Water Commons
    1. Water to Drink: This page discusses the need for clean water, and approaches to equitable provisioning of water, especially in urban areas.
    2. Water: The issues faced in maintaining the quality and quantity of water resources.

Knowledge/Culture Commons:

  1. Aesthetic Commons [6]
  2. Book Commons
  3. Communication Commons
  4. Cultural Commons [7]
  5. Digital Commons
  6. Educational Commons
  7. FLOSS Commons: see FLOSS as Commons
  8. Genome Commons
  9. Global Innovation Commons
  10. Global Integral-Spiritual Commons
  11. History Commons
  12. Information Commons ; Information as a Common-Pool Resource
  13. Knowledge Commons ; Knowledge as a Commons
  14. Learning Commons
  15. Libraries as Commons
  16. Media Commons
  17. Medical and Health Commons
  18. Museum as Commons
  19. Music Commons
  20. Open Education Commons
  21. Open Scientific Software Commons ; Open Source Science Commons
  22. Patent Commons ; Eco-Patent Commons
  23. Psychological Commons
  24. Public Education as a Commons

Institutional Commons:

  1. Employment as a Common Pool Resource
  2. Financial Commons
  3. Global Legal Commons
  4. Household as Commons
  5. Infrastructure Commons
  6. Internet Commons
  7. Labor Commons
  8. Market Commons
  9. Money of the Commons ; How Can Crypto-Money Become a Money of the Commons
  10. Neighborhood Commons
  11. NonProfit Commons
  12. Taxes as Commons
  13. Thing Commons
  14. Urban Commons
  15. Wireless Commons


Sam Rose on Transition Economics

"Where people work together to both share those resources that are shareable now (software, designs, knowledge, waste that can be used as food, surplus capacities and resources) and cooperate to produce items that are still based in scarcity, then re-invest the profits into creating more and more abundance-economy-based systems."

- See Sam Rose on the need for Cooperative Wealth Building facilitators

Neoliberalism as the Anti-Commons

"As neoliberalism converts every political or social problem into market terms, it converts them to individual problems with market solutions. Examples in the United States are legion: bottled water as a response to contamination of the water table; private schools, charter schools, and voucher systems as a response to the collapse of quality public education; anti-theft devices, private security guards, and gated communities (and nations) as a response to the production of a throwaway class and intensifying economic inequality; boutique medicine as a response to crumbling health care provision; “V-chips” as a response to the explosion of violent and pornographic material on every type of household screen; ergonomic tools and technologies as a response to the work conditions of information capitalism; and, of course, finely differentiated and titrated pharmaceutical antidepressants as a response to lives of meaninglessness or despair amidst wealth and freedom. This conversion of socially, economically, and politically produced problems into consumer items depoliticizes what has been historically produced, and it especially depoliticizes capitalism itself. Moreover, as neoliberal political rationality devolves both political problems and solutions from public to private, it further dissipates political or public life: the project of navigating the social becomes entirely one of discerning, affording, and procuring a personal solution to every socially produced problem. This is depoliticization on an unprecedented level: the economy is tailored to it, citizenship is organized by it, the media are dominated by it, and the political rationality of neoliberalism frames and endorses it.”

- Wendy Brown [8]

The commons vs. commoditization

"The main way in which propaganda has been used to try and dull people's thinking about what water is, what food is, what the land is, is by first and foremost redefining everything that we get from the earth as purely raw materials and commodities. It's a denial of the capacity of human beings, of living resources, of equal systems, which is at the heart of the corporate propaganda that enables privatization, that enables takeover and the creation of property in that which should never be private property, that which should always belong to the commons."

- Vandana Shiva on the commons vs. commoditization [9]

Joan Subirats on the inalienability of the commons

Joan Subirats:

"The commons breaks with the individualistic vision as conceived by the capitalist tradition, a vision that has progressively transferred the idea of rights to individual people. The commons take inclusion and everyone’s equal right to access as its starting point, while property and the idea of the state that upholds it is based on a rivalry of goods, and thus on exclusion and concentration of power in institutions that insure and protect it. The commons try to situate themselves outside the subject-object reductionism that would lead to their commodification. The commons cannot be commodified (because they cannot be transferred, or alienated), and they cannot be the object of individualised possession. And so they express a qualitative logic, not a quantitative one. We do not ‘have’ a common good, we ‘form part of’ the common good, in that we form part of an ecosystem, of a system of relations in an urban or rural environment; the subject is part of the object. Common goods are inseparably united, and they unite people as well as communities and the ecosystem itself." [10]

Humanity is just a steward

Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations as boni patres familias [good heads of the household].

- Marx (

Land and Labor cannot be commodities, they are commons

"As Karl Polanyi (1944: 72) argued, labour and land are “fictitious commodities”, for “labour is only another name for a human activity which goes with life itself… nor can that activity be detached from the rest of life…; land is only another name for nature, which is not produced by man”.

- Karl Polanyi [11]

Occupy as a Peer Production of a Political Commons

"If you observe an occupation, you see a community that is producing its politics autonomously, not following hierarchical or authoritarian political movements with a pre-ordained program; you see for-benefit institutions in charge of the provisioning of the occupiers (food, healthcare), and the creation of an ethical economy around it (such as Occupy’s Street Vendor Project). This is prefigurative of a new form of society in which the commons is at the core of value creation; these commons’ are maintained by non-profit institutions, and the livelihoods are guaranteed through an ethical economy. Of course there are historical precedents, but what is new is the extraordinary organisational, mobilization and co-learning potential of their networks. Occupy works as an open API with modules, such as ‘protest camping’, ‘general assemblies’, which can be used as templates and modified by all, without the need for central leadership. We can now have global coordination and mutual alignment of a multitude of small-group dynamics, and this requires a new type of leadership. The realization of historical moment of Peak Hierarchy, the moment in which distributed networks asymmetrically challenge vertical institutions in a way they could not do before, forces social movements to look for new ways of governance… but these are not given, and have to be discovered experimentally, and of course, there will be valuable lessons to learn from predecessor movements!"

- Michel Bauwens [12]

A revolution of the rich against the poor

"Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor. The lords and nobles were upsetting the social order, breaking down ancient law and custom, sometimes by means of violence, often by pressure and intimidation. They were literally robbing the poor of their share in the common, tearing down the house which, by the hitherto unbreakable force of custom, the poor had long regarded as theirs and their heirs."

- Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, 1944.

More Citations on the Commons by Contemporary Commoners

See: Citations on the Commons by Contemporary Commoners

Key Resources

Graphic: Choosing the Right Form of Common Property

Film: This Land is Our Land. The Fight to Reclaim the Commons. Written by David Bollier et al.

Delicious tag for updates:

Key Articles

For beginners:

Key articles:

  1. obtaining infrastructure without debt
  2. robust, multi-layered asset locks
  3. resilience against sale, co-option or cancellation

See also:

  1. Top Ten Constituents of New Commons Economy‎
  2. Twelve Contemporary Commons Observations‎

Righting Back the Fake Commons

Labor, Money, Nature:

Maude Barlow: Private Property is Not the Right Solution for the Natural Commons

Key Blogs

  1. Kim Klein and the Commons
  2. On the Commons
  3. David Bollier's news and perspectives on the commons

In German:

  1. Commons und solidarische Ökonomie
  2. Gemeingüter
  3. Silke Helfrich's commons blog
  4. Keimform]

Key Books


The Trilogy by the Commons Strategies Group

Other Books on the Commons

  1. Christian Siefkes (2007), From Exchange to Contributions: Generalizing Peer Production into the Physical World. [23]: proposal for a commons-based economic system
  2. Book: Common as Air. Lewis Hyde. 2010

On specialized commons:

  1. Nature as Commons versus Commodities, book: Nature for sale. Commons versus Commodities. by giovanna ricoveri. Pluto, 2012: "Nature for Sale uncovers the rich heritage of common ownership which existed before the dominance of capitalist property relations. Giovanna Ricoveri argues that the subsistence commons of the past can be reinvented today to provide an alternative to the current destructive economic orde
  2. The Common Thread. By John Sulston: a nuanced defense of treating knowledge of the genome as a commons.
  3. Genes, Bytes and Emissions: To Whom Does the World Belong? Ed. by Silke Helfrich. Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2009 Intro ; Online version
  4. On the Water Commons: Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop Corporate Theft of the World’s Water. By Maude Barlow.the Water Commons
  5. Common Cause. Information Between Commons and Property. Philippe Aigrain. [24] Unpubished, select version of: Cause Commune.

History of the Commons

  • Commons, Markets and Associations in the European Middle Ages. JEAN-FRANÇOIS DRAPERI. Associations in the Medieval West. From the emergence of the commons to the supremacy of markets. Le fait associatif dans l’Occident médiéval. De l’émergence des communs à la suprématie des marchés. Le Bord de l'Eau, [26]: "Associations dominate the economy of the central Middle Ages: monasteries, parishes, guilds, brotherhoods, communes, found the renaissance of the 12th century. Acting on the medieval associative fact invites us to pose the hypothesis that associations and the social economy are not an invention of contemporary society, but rather a discovery. The social economy was not born in reaction to capitalism, but the capitalist economy was born from the transformation of trade associations and the seizure of power by merchants and bankers over the commons and communes in the 13th and 14th centuries."

On Commons Economics

  1. Enrico Grazzini. The Good of Everyone. The Sharing Economy as a Way Out of the Crisis (Editori Internazionali Riuniti, 2011)
  2. Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth Juliet B. Schor
  3. Wolfgang Hoeschele. The [[Economics of Abundance[[: A Political Economy of Freedom, Equity, and Sustainability. Gower Publishing, 2010
  4. Sustaining the Commons. By John M. Anderies and Marco A. Janssen. Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity, 2013.[27]: " a lucid, logically presented introduction to the key concepts of Ostrom’s research"

Key Conferences

  • 17th General Meeting of the Common(s) Core of European Private Law 2011, [28]: In the wake of urgent global challenges to both the European Union and the global system, here we are particularly interested in opening the Common Core Project as a platform for exploring the extent to which the comparative law model offers space for understanding and advancing the ‘Commons’.

Key Essays

Introductory article:

  • Four conditions for successful commons. by Mark van Vugt: "I have identified four key conditions for the successful management of shared environmental resources: information, identity, institutions and incentives. I believe we can and should use this 4i framework as the basis for a plan of action to combat local and global environmental catastrophe."

Major essays:

  1. Christian Siefkes (2009), The Commons of the Future. Building Blocks for a Commons-based Society.
  2. The Circulation of the Common = Analytical concept proposed by Nick Dyer-Witheford related to the reproduction of the commons [29]
  3. Information as a Common-Pool Resource. Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom. 66 Law & Contemp. Probs. 111, Winter-Spring 2003. [30]: a paper contextualizing knowledge commons and the study of other commons
  4. Global Commons and Common Sense. Jorge Buzaglo. real-world economics review, issue no. 51 [31] : policy proposals for a global governance of planetary commons
  5. The Common in Commonism. Michael Hardt looks at what Marx had to say about the common. [32]
  6. A typology for managing common resources: Wolfgang Hoeschele on Contributory Resource Use
  7. The Five Commons - ( ) a “minimally necessary” set of practices to achieve a sustainable society.


  1. Philippe Aigrain: The Reinvention of the Commons in the Information Age (french)


  1. Strengthen the Commons Now!

Special Authors:

  1. People Sharing Resources. Toward a New Multilateralism of the Global Commons. James Bernard Quilligan Kosmos Journal, Fall | Winter 2009: this article frames what a global commons-based policy and governance structure should be.
  2. James Quilligan: Toward a Commons-based Framework for Global Negotiations

Special Topics:

  1. Aesthetic Commons and the Enclosures of Instituting Autonomies. By Jordi Claramonte. [33]
  2. Denis Postle: Psychological Commons, Peer to Peer Networks and Post-Professional Psychopractice

Key Events

Key Facts and Figures


"It is estimated that at least 66% of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa, or 552 million people, live in rural areas, and this will rise to 650 million people by 2025. If it is assumed that 90% are customary rather than statutory land holders, then currently there are some 500 million people in the customary sector in sub-Saharan Africa. With exceptions, most of these people have been affected by negative legal and policy treatment of customary land rights, especially as it relates to common resources. As a common resource, the fate of the commons is a concern of the majority" (

2. LIZ ALDEN WILY on Community-Based Land Governance Systems:

"Globally, between two and three billion people acquire and uphold rights through these regimes. Over half the world’s land mass is subject to such norms. Formal recognition has soared in recent decades, but still covering only one fifth of community lands [34]. These operate in all regions. One million villages in China and another one million in India govern both farms and common properties. Vast tracts of Latin America have been transferred to communities, most to those who define themselves as Indigenous Peoples. Seventy four per cent of the landmass of Australia, 40 per cent of Canada, significant proportions of forests in Eastern Europe, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland are also legally community property. Cast your eye over national level data at to see multiple other examples." (

Key Organizations

  1. On The Commons]
  2. Francophone Network for the Commons

Key Podcasts

  1. Property, Commons, and The Gift Economy: provides an overview of the philsophy behind private property rights, the fallacies of the "tragedy of the commons," and the moral and social dynamics of gift-exchange within communities. download
  2. History of Commons and Enclosure: A review of medieval commons, Peter Linebaugh's history of Magna Carta, and Karl Polanyi's The Great
  3. Dynamics of Modern Enclosure and Governing the Commons: A survey of modern enclosures as described by Bollier in Silent Theft; the human implicatiions of making resources alienable for market use; and an introduction to Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons. download
  4. Land as a Commons and Water as a Commons: A look at property rights as applied to land and water, and how certain commons-based approaches such as New Mexican acequias avoid the adverse consequences of market enclosure. Readings by Eric Freyfogle, Maude Barlow, Adam Davidson-Harden and Jose A. Rivera. download
  5. Atmosphere and Commons Trusts: Peter Barnes has been a pioneering thinker about how stakeholder trusts might be used to manage the atmosphere more equitably and effectively. Readings from Barnes' Who Owns the Sky? and Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons. download
  6. Second Enclosure Movement, Copyright, Trademarks and Patents: The copyright wars against the public domain and fair use have been raging for more than 20 years now. A review of its harm to culture and its general dynamics. Readings by William Patry, David Bollier, and James Beesen/Michael J. Meurer download
  7. Internet as a Super-Commons: The end-to-end principles of the Internet and its shared protocols constitute a vital infrastructure for creating countless online commons. This lecture gives a brief overview of this history, with readings by Lawrence Lessig, Richard Stallman, Eben Moglen, David Bollier, Elinor Ostrom and Charlotte Hess. download
  8. New Genres of Collaborative Creativity and the Economics of Online Sharing: The Internet infrastructure, the GPL for software and the Creative Commons licenses have enabled the rise of rich new genres of collaborative creativity, from shared archives and wikis to remix music and the blogosphere. This lecture looks at the "Great Value Shift" catalyzed by distributed media, with readings by Yochai Benkler, Michel Bauwens, David Bollier. download
  9. Academia as a Commons: One of the more troubling market enclosures of the past generation is the croporate colonization of academia and its research. We review Jennifer Washburn's University Inc., and selected chapters from Bollier's Silent Theft and Viral Spiral. download

Key Policy Proposals

Proposal for a Food Commons Policy, by Jose Luis Vivero Pol

Key Research

  • Marco Giustini recommends: If you're interested in researching about ancient commons' organizations, look for terms "comuna", "comunanza agraria" and "partecipanza agraria" in Italy. Really very interesting field of research!

Key Schools with commons-orientation

Key Videos

  • Documentary: The Promise of the Commons. By JOHN D. LIU & PATRICK AUGENSTEIN. [36]: "questions the orthodox opinion that only private ownership can protect the ecosystems. It discusses the thoughts and rights of people around the world and shows how landless people are protecting the common heritage." [37]

  • The beautiful Common Sense video documentary about the history and present of rural, urban and digital commons


  1. The Commons Video replaces the Story of Stuff with the Story of Sharing! [38]
  2. What are the Commons, "does a good job of defining the commons and explaining why they're essential, whether digital or physical". [39]
  3. The Remix the Commons Video Series [40]


  1. Anthony McCann on the Enclosure of the Information Commons
  2. Brewster Kahle on Universal Access to All Knowledge
  3. Business Models for the Commons
  4. Emer O'Siochru on Reclaiming the Commons
  5. Eben Moglen on the Commons as an Actor in Transforming the Global Political Economy

All videos of the 2010 Berlin Commons Conference are presented via this consolidated link at

  1. Roberto Verzola and Stefan Meretz on the Generative Logic of the Commons‎
  2. Multilateralism 2.0‎;
  3. Philippe Aigrain on the Commons as a Challenge for Classic Economic Patterns‎
  4. Michel Bauwens: an Overview of the Commons as Transformation Paradigm‎;
  5. Ruth Meinzen-Dick: an Overview of the Commons as Transformation Paradigm‎

Commons Encyclopedia