Law and the Commons

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Article 1, in English

* Conference contribution: The law and the commons. By Serge Gutwirth (VUB) and Isabelle Stengers (ULB)


Presentation at 3d Global Thematic IASC-Conference on the knowledge commons, 20-22 October 2016 ; Sciences Po – Ecole de droit, Paris


"It is because of its relevance for the possibilities available for jurists involved in the reclaiming the commons movement that we propose not to oppose but indeed to contrast commons associated to resistance struggles and commons that we will characterize differently, as resurgent. Such a contrast is not an essentialist, but rather a pragmatic one. It first of all refers to the different social, legal, cultural and economic environments that the said commons have to confront. Present-day neoliberalism is a hostile, hegemonic environment for any and all commons. But as we have seen, the living memory of its dismantling violence against anything it sees as an obstacle, is still present, all the more so as the attack is going on, for instance with such treaties as the NAFTA, the TAFTA or the CETA. In a way, resistance against free trade and investment hegemony has something in common with resistance against occupation powers, and as such it also creates a bond, which unites the struggle of indigenous peoples and Western activists. Indeed, from a neo-liberal perspective, national or regional legislation protecting work, health or the environment may all be assimilated with outdated customary rights, and should be dismantled or eradicated."

Article 2, in French

* Article: Facilitatrice, protectrice, instituante, contributrice : la loi et les communs. Valerie Peugeot. "Contribution au colloque de Cerisy - VERS UNE RÉPUBLIQUE DES BIENS COMMUNS ? - Septembre 2016 – Version de l’auteur."


"The legal foundations of our states are based on private property. This irrigates all our legislations. Thus, it is complex to embed into those laws a protection of the commons and of property managed by communities, without a legal personality. Yet, recent legal initiatives demonstrate the possibility of an explicit acknowledgment of the commons. Through the review of a corpus of five laws adopted in France between 2014 and 2016, this article identifies the tracks, even tenuous, of a legislative intervention that can act as leverage for the commoners. Henceforth, what would be the impact of an explicit mention of the commons, and how could it foster collective actions? We suggest a typology of the possible relationships between the commons and the law, or between public authorities and commoners based on this analysis."