Talk:Some Thoughts on the Commons

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Some thoughts on language use in "Some Thought on the Commons"

A definite article vs. a plurality of ideas

For the purposes of developing the concept of commons as a policy platform - and keeping in mind the notions expressed in internal, post-conference discussion via email about "being wary of fundamentalist common-ism" (which is a "hypothetical" reference to the potentiality of "totalitarian tendencies ... inherent in all of us, once we start to think that our solution is the only good one, and needs to be imposed ..") - and with respect to the phrasing of these "Thoughts on the Commons" - I want to suggest that language is a form of magic that conjures up ideas in ways where even the smallest of differences can result in the sending of very different signals.

In this case - of this document - I do not think that the use of a definite article, such as in "...the commons...", is the best way forward, since a potential totalitarian seed can already be found in the use of a definite article. Compare: "thoughts on the idea" with "thoughts on ideas". (Some of the last surviving anarchists of the Spanish Revolution used to refer to "anarchism" --which they experienced as a viable form of social organisation throughout large parts of Spanish society when workers took control of the economy in the greatest commoning project of all times--, as "the idea" - that signals that their long struggle, successfull at first, and then defeated by the combined forces of Soviet state-capitalists and facists/nazis left them with "nothing" but the memories of "the idea"). Let us not start there! Let us prefigure a different trajectory for the concept of commons.

Instead I would suggest to call this document "Some Thoughts on Commons", because there are so many different kinds of commons. There is no "the commons". There is "the concept of commons" for what concerns policy making purposes, but it refers to a wide set of practical ideas and approaches to collective management and ownership of resources etc. You can find a commons that is thoroughly hierarchical and partriarchal and you can find other commons that are egalitarian - and everything in between.

For example where it reads: "The commons offers a rich set of governance models..."

I would suggest: "Commons offer a rich set of governance models"

In this way, be leaving out the definite article and pluralising commons (by leaving out the third person, singular "s" in "offers"), the text signals to the reader that the concept of commons is not a singular idea, but that the term "commons" refer to a plurality of options. Of course sometimes one wants to refer to a specific/particular commons, but there is no problem in using commons sometimes as plural, sometimes as singular - what is important is the way in which these choices send certain signals to the imagination of the reader, which in turn have philosophical and political implications.

Some might think that this is pedantic and hair-splitting nonsense, but keep in mind that a system of thoughts is likely to have sensitive dependence on initial conditions, so let us not start where the anarchist commoners ended upon subjection to the full force of opposition to freedom and self-determination, but pick up where they began and where they peaked, namely by creating diverse and federated commons where workers and local communities seize control of resources, infrastructure and the economy as such, and let us address these phenomena in the plurality that they deserve, and at the same avoiding any totalitarian tendencies, even if they are only potential and seem far fetched at this stage. After all, life is what we make it and the future is now.

Jmp 15:32, 18 November 2010 (UTC)