Pro-Capitalist Commons vs. Anti-Capitalist Commons
- Article: THE FUTURE OF ‘THE COMMONS’: NEOLIBERALISM’S ‘PLAN B’ OR THE ORIGINAL DISACCUMULATION OF CAPITAL? George Caffentzis.
"It is because of this double fluorescence of the concept - to deal with the crises and limits of both neoliberalism and socialism/communism/nationalism - that we have the surprising popularity of the term and the confusion it induces. Inevitably, there are many theorists and concepts that have inhabited the interstices of these confluences such as Pierre Bourdieu’s notions of social and symbolic capital, the ‘gift economy’ discussed so eloquently and evasively by Derrida, and ‘social justice’ in Gelopter’s study of the commons.
One of the reasons for this confusion is the lack of recognition among anti-capitalist activists and thinkers that commons discourse is so duplicitous. We have often viewed neoliberalism as the only significant ideology in the field and therefore wrongly assumed that commons talk is inevitably anti-capitalist. In this essay I aim to examine and decry this confusion, for it undermines the possibility of clearly examining the two kinds of commons that are persisting or are in gestation in our period. Given this semantic and political conflict (and its ‘fog’), it is time to sharpen up our thinking and action and ask after the future of the commons. Is it a concept too exhausted and overwritten for use or is it still a necessary tool for creating a non-capitalist world? An answer to this question is especially urgent in this period when the Obama Administration has opted for Neoliberalism’s ‘Plan B,’ that is, the use of the tools of the commons to ‘save’ Neoliberalism from itself.
Given the double contradictory function that produced the revival of the notion of the commons, I especially want to discuss the political implications of a distinction between two kinds of commons:
(1) pro-capitalist commons that are compatible with and potentiate capitalist accumulation and
(2) anti-capitalist commons that are antagonistic to and subversive of capitalist accumulation