Quotes on the Commons
- 1 Quotes
- 1.1 Sam Rose on Transition Economics
- 1.2 Neoliberalism as the Anti-Commons
- 1.3 The commons vs. commoditization
- 1.4 Joan Subirats on the inalienability of the commons
- 1.5 Humanity is just a steward
- 1.6 Land and Labor cannot be commodities, they are commons
- 1.7 Occupy as a Peer Production of a Political Commons
- 1.8 A revolution of the rich against the poor
- 1.9 Jay Walljasper
- 1.10 Silke Helfrich
- 1.11 Jean Lievens
- 1.12 Michel Bauwens
- 1.13 David Bollier
- 1.14 A. J. Fisher
- 1.15 James Quilligan
- 1.16 Benni Bärmann
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 
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 
Joan Subirats on the inalienability of the commons
"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." 
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 (http://tiny.cc/xrHUv)
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 
"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 
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.
"The commons is more than just a nice idea; it encompasses a wide set of practical measures that offer fresh hope for a saner, safer, more enjoyable future. At the heart of the commons are four simple principles, which have been practiced by humans for millenia: 1) serving the common good; 2) ensuring equitable use of what belongs to us all; 3) promoting sustainable stewardship so that coming generations are not cheated and imperiled; 4) creating practical ways for people to participate in decisions shaping their future. [...] Private enterprise can flourish alongside a healthy commons sector. Indeed, a market economy would be impossible without commons institutions such as the legal system, corporate charters and financial regulations. And while government-run institutions such as schools, parks and emergency services are certainly part of the commons. So are Civic groups, non-profit organizations, community organizations, informal meeting places—indeed, any gathering of people for the common good is a crucial elements of the commons."
1. "Commons are diverse. They are the fundamental building blocks and pre-condition of our life and social wealth. They include knowledge and water, seeds and software, cultural works and the atmosphere. Commons are not just “things,” however. They are living, dynamic systems of life. They form the social fabric of a free society."
"Commons do not belong to anyone individually nor do they belong to no one. Different communities, from the family to global society, always create, maintain, cultivate, and redefine commons. When this does not happen, commons dwindle away – and in the process, our personal and social security diminishes. Commons ensure that people can live and evolve. The diversity of the commons helps secure our future."
"Commons are not just common goods or assets. They are not “things” separate from us. They are not simply water, the forest, or ideas. They are social practices of commoning, of acting together, based on principles of sharing, stewarding, and producing in common. To ensure this, all those who participate in a common have the right to an equal voice in making decisions on the provisions and rules governing its management.
Examples of the rich variety of such experiences and innovations include systems for community management of forests, canals, fisheries and land; the numerous processes of commoning in the digital world such as initiatives for free culture or free and open software; non-commercial initiatives for access to housing in cities; strategies for cooperative consumption associated with social currencies; and many others. All of these commons are clearly forms of management that differ from market-based ones and from those organized by hierarchical structures. Together they offer a kaleidoscope rich in self-organization and self-determination. All are neglected and marginalized in conventional political and economic analyses. All are based on the idea that no one can have a satisfactory life if not integrated into social relations, and that one’s full personal unfolding depends on the unfolding of others and vice versa. The borders between the particular interest and the collective interest are blurred in a commons."
"There are a number of important features that can be used to describe true commons. The first is that true commons cannot be commodified – and if they are – they cease to be commons. The second aspect is that while they are neither public nor private they tend to be managed by local communities and cannot be exclusionary. That is, they cannot have borders built around them otherwise they become private property. The third aspect of the commons is that, unlike resources, they are not scarce but abundant. If managed properly, they work to overcome scarcity."
"A commons is a shared resource that is either inherited from nature (and Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate in economics, has documented the rationale and governance of such natural resource commons), or created by human beings, either in the 'immaterial fields' of knowledge and culture (this includes for instance free and open source software and shared designs), or by holding productive human capital (machinery and the means of production) in common stock. The commons is not exclusively defined by non-ownership and access, but by some form of common governance. Ostrom’s contributions were to show that it was the governance of the commons which protected them from the ‘tragedy of the commons’ that can befall open access resources that lack that governance."Synthetic Overview of the Collaborative Economy, p. 158
"The commons helps us see that we are actually richer than we thought we were. It’s just that our common wealth is not a private commodity or cash. It’s socially created wealth that’s embedded in distinct communities of interest who act as stewards of that wealth. Because the value is socially embedded, it can’t simply be bought and sold like a commodity. The commons can be generative in its own right – but the wealth it generates is usually shared, non-monetized value.
We can especially see the generativity of the commons on the Internet, which is a kind of hosting infrastructure for digital commons. ...
Think of the hundreds of millions of photos on Flickr or the millions of Wikipedia entries in over 160 languages. Think of the more than 6,000 open-access academic journals that are bypassing expensive commercial journal publishers. Think of the Open Educational Resources movement that is making open textbooks and the OpenCourseWare movement started by M.I.T. Think of the hundreds of millions of online texts, videos and musical works that use Creative Commons licenses to enable easy sharing. Think of the vast free and open source software community that is the basis for a rich and varied commercial software marketplace.
There are countless such digital commons based on peer production and sharing. In fact, the bestiary of commons is now so large and varied that there is what amounts to a Commons Sector for knowledge, culture and creativity."
"Before I get into the fundamental requirements of a Sensor Commons project it’s worth defining what I mean by the term. For me the Sensor Commons is a future state whereby we have data available to us, in real time, from a multitude of sensors that are relatively similar in design and method of data acquisition and that data is freely available whether as a data set or by API to use in whatever fashion they like.
The access we are getting to cheap, reliable, malleable technologies such as Arduino and Xbee coupled with ubiquitous networks whether WiFi or Cellular is creating an opportunity for us to be able to understand our local environments better. Going are the days where we needed to petition councillors to do some water testing in our creeks and waterways or measure the quality of the air that we are breathing.
The deployment of these community oriented technologies will create the Sensor Commons; providing us with data that becomes available and accessible to anyone with an interest. Policy creation and stewardship will pass back to the local communities – as it should be – who will have the data to back up their decisions and create strong actions as a result."
"In considering the essential problem of how to produce and distribute material wealth, virtually all of the great economists in Western history have ignored the significance of the commons — the shared resources of nature and society that people inherit, create and utilize. ...
... Whether these commons are traditional (rivers, forests, indigenous cultures) or emerging (energy, intellectual property, internet), communities are successfully managing them through collaboration and collective action. This growing movement has also begun to create social charters and commons trusts — formal instruments which define the incentives, rights and responsibilities of stakeholders for the supervision and protection of common resources. Ironically, by organizing to protect their commons through decentralized decision-making, the democratic principles of freedom and equality are being realized more fully in these resource communities than through the enterprises and policies of the Market State."
"In my opinion, the commons approach, which we have discussed here repeatedly, meets all these demands. Conservatives like that it is conserving and community-oriented, liberals like its distance to the state and that it is not completely incompatible with market economies, anarchists like its focus on self-organisation, and socialists and communists embrace that it promises to control property commonly. The applicability of commons theory reaches to nearly all kinds of contemporary movements and commons play a fundamental role in all crises of today. Finally, there exists a multitude of theories around the commons, so we do not have to start from scratch.
It is not essential that every single activist in every social movement can live with this platform. More important is achieve support for it through a critical mass of movements with as many different worldviews as possible. If this is accomplished, a new dynamic in the medium and long term unfolds due to productive relations between theory and practice. Commons-based movements also mix well with traditional multi-strategic movements."