Market Commons

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Charlotte Hess:

"Sandel 2005 writes “Are there some things that should not be bought and sold, and if so, why?” This is not far from the question Daly and Cobb asked in 1989 when they proposed an alternative approach to neoclassical economics, one with more humanism and an ethical basis. Bollier has written prolifically about the importance of gift economies, citing the tradition of open science; open source software, donating blood, and community gardens as good examples of the gift economy in action (Bollier 2002b). Nonini also places the intellectual commons within the realm of the gift economy stating that it is imperative that this commons be understood as a a non-commodified social arrangement (Nonini2006b:205).”

I have already mentioned Benkler’s commons-based peer production. His work on this subject could have just as well been put into this sector (see also Cooper 2006). Purdy (2007: 1107) provides a good quick summary of Benkler’s work on networked information economy: “Benkler’s work (2003a) argues that digital technology has changed the capital structure of the production of culture and ideas in ways that create new opportunities to organize some economic activity by appeals to flourishing rather than prosperity.”

Peter Barnes is a public entrepreneur who advocates revising our form of global, corporate capitalism to begin incorporating the commons. In Who Owns the Sky (2001), he proposes a “sky trust” to require companies to bid at auction for the right to release their carbon emissions into the atmosphere.


In his 2006 work Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons has a more radical proposal of rewriting the basics of capitalism:

- The key difference between versions 2.0 [current system] and 3.0 is the inclusion in the latter of a set of institutions I call the commons sector. Instead of having only one engine—that is, the corporate-dominated private sector—our improved economic system would run on two: one geared to maximizing private profit, the other to preserving and enhancing common wealth (p.xiv).

Well-known author, Bill McKibben, also calls a renewal of commons in his new book called Deep Economy. “But commons that have been weakened can be strengthened again’ indeed, there are signs of life in many places. In India, for example, the Navdanya (‘Nine Seeds’) movement protects local varieties of rice and other staples by cataloguing them, declaring them common property, and setting up locally owned seed banks.” (p.199-200) McKibben takes issue with the ubiquitous notion that economic growth is the same as economic success and imagines a new type of economy that focuses on the health of local communities.

There are also some socialist critiques of the current market system calling for the inclusion of commons (Dyer-Witheford 2001; McCarthy 2005). Others too see “the elitist economic agenda” (Korten 2004) as antithetical to the good of the commons. Frost and Morner (2005) write about “corporate commons.” (http://ssrn.com/abstract=1356835)


Source: Charlotte Hess: Mapping the New Commons, 2008