Temporalities of the Commons

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* Temporalites of the Commons: Toward Strategic Vision. By Jose Ramos

URL = http://www.academia.edu/2106927/Temporalities_of_the_Commons_Toward_Strategic_Vision


"This article explores counter hegemonic temporalities, exploring nine discourses for what they have to offer an emerging narrative and temporality for the commons. Using these discourses, historical dimensions of the commons, present issues, and future visions of commoning are developed. The article ends by proposing some strategic considerations regarding the timescales within which different commoning projects might be understood. The article offers a starting point with which to dialogue and debate the narrative and strategic development of post-capitalist commons-nurturing political economies and societies."



Our understanding of the transition from a world typified by commodification and intensive capitalism, as described by a wide variety of scholars (Applebaum and Robinson 2005), to a world in which a variety of commons are protected, nurtured and extended, is still very much emerging.

Visions for a commons-oriented world order are quickening (Bollier and Helfrich 2012). From the World Social Forum Process has come diverse voices articulating new commons-oriented epistemologies. Along with these are strategic considerations. What is entailed in building a commons oriented world? What are the themes, areas, and time dimensions? What comes first and will come second? What are the stepping-stones or pathways to that other possible world we wish to create?

This article explores these questions. To begin, we need to address the basis by which we understand temporality. This article therefore begins with a discussion on embodied cognition, in particular Santos’ (2006) idea of the epistemology of the global south. This provides a basis for legitimizing and appreciating counter hegemonic temporalities as sources by which we can construct commons nurturing narratives. We then consider some timescales within which to nest or hold plural conceptions of the commons and their enactments.

Theoretical foundations

Since the 1980s Critical Futures scholars have subjected projections of the future to critical scrutiny (Dator, 2005; Inayatullah, 1998; Milojevic, 1999; Sardar, 1999; Slaughter, 1999). They have contested deterministic ‘end of history’ visions, arguing instead for the idea that there are a number of alternative futures open to us, based on both the perspectives people hold and human agency/action. ‘The future’, as perceived by an individual or a group, is an expression of the discourses, worldviews, ideologies that people co-habit. Thus, futures are diverse as the varieties of ways of knowing and thinking people hold across the many communities that exist today on planet Earth. Such diversity challenges the cultural hegemony of a West-centric neo-liberal vision, and attempts to open the possibility for a dialogue of visions across diverse people and indeed civilizations (Nandy, 1992, p. 18).

Drawing upon this thinking, the ‘embodiment’ of temporality can be articulated as such. Diverse people from across the world see the future in fundamentally different ways. People’s consciousness of time and social change emerges from the cultural and geographic contexts within which they are situated. Consciousness is embodied through the everyday acts of living, working and loving that we engage in (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980). Whether this is embodiment via a sense of precise industrial time, embodiment via the sensibilities of cyclic agricultural time, embodiment through science mediated evolutionary time, the body as the vehicle of the self provides the ground within which time emerges.

Today’s hegemonic rationality is expressed through the oligopoly between the twin ideologies of market and state, which define what is considered reasonable, rational, sensible and intelligible. Today, our form of hegemonic rationality is expressed through the logic of industrial development, the absolute sovereignty of the state, the capitalist market system, economic globalization, private ownership and accumulation, consumerism and individualism. While there are many perspectives and knowledge systems that differ fundamentally from today’s hegemonic rationality, they are not given equal voice and value in the dominant institutions of our time. As an expression of hegemonic rationality, you might then say that there’s also a hegemonic temporality. That is to say that, there is a dominant narrative, which offers an explanation for how we got to where we are, where we are now, and where we are going (or should go).

In brief, the economic story goes somewhat like this. Before the development of a market system, people lived in conditions of serfdom and economic oppression. Markets freed men to do business and provide value for each other, enabling economic freedom and fostering wealth. Today, our wealth and development can be attributed to enterprising minds who established innovative businesses drawing on emerging science and technology (Campbell, 1997). For-profit businesses, like Google, Microsoft, Apple computers, and others, are the greatest forces for wealth creation and development. The capitalist system is indispensable for the future development of human societies, and will continue to provide disruptive breakthrough innovations.

The statist narrative, on the other hand, goes somewhat like this. Before the modern nation state, empires and kingdoms were perpetually at war, exerting power with impunity. The innovation of the modern state allowed for stable borders, the enfranchisement of citizens, human rights and democratic representation. It requires a monopoly on violence. As the primary and most powerful organizational form in the global political arena, it is the most legitimate actor and has the ultimate right to represent and define interstate relations. State power will continue to produce development, human rights and security, and will be a primary feature into the future.

The twin narratives of market and state are partially true. And there are also contradictions. Yet hegemonic temporality structures the way we understand the rationality of how we have come to be who we are, and where we are going. Hegemonic temporality thus obscures, sidelines or makes invisible a whole number of other temporalities, and ways that people understand their pasts, presents and futures. It obscures many histories that exist, that contradict hegemonic temporality’s version of the past. For example, the West’s colonial role in the deliberate de-development of the non-West (Marks, 2002; Ramos, 2010; Sardar, et al, 1993). It sidelines the many varieties of actors and agents of change, privileging the businessman inventor-innovator as the vanguard of change, or the state-political leader. Women’s movements and leaders, peace activists, organic intellectuals, labor leaders, peer-to-peer producers, and others, are left by the wayside. Hegemonic temporality highlights the spheres of economy and state as the primary ontological structures, making invisible a number of other important structures: gender, class, species, ethnicity, networks, ethics and morality, etc. Hegemonic temporality, moreover, makes alternative visions of the future look absurd, impossible, unintelligible, or illogical. Visions for a commons oriented world, within the language and logic of hegemonic temporality, are rendered irrational, impossible and inconceivable. Inayatullah asks in this vein 'which scenarios make the present remarkable', 'unfamiliar', 'strange' or 'denaturalize it' (Inayatullah, 1998, pp. 818-819). If the world at the present is experiencing ecological destruction, gross inequality and conflict, is it still justified as a necessary sacrifice for a better future, the inevitable growing pains of ‘progress’, ‘modernization’ or ‘advancement’? Therefore, how the future is ‘used’ is fundamental, whether the future represents one industry, one culture, or an elite group’s triumph (over others), who is erased from the future? Who is privileged in that future? And how is the image of the future being used to ‘colonize’ others (Sardar, 1999)?

Epistemological recovery

In part to deal with this problem, Santos developed the idea of the epistemology of the global south. Hegemonic rationality, he argues, engages in ‘epistemicide’ – the “mass murder” of alternative knowledge systems. The study of this form of epistemicide he called the sociology of absences. This is the study of how alternative knowledge systems, and by extension alternate temporalities, are relegated to dwarfish status or oblivion. I draw on his concept of the sociology of absences, to express how hegemonic ‘monoculture[s]’ make invisible or discredit alternatives, or as he writes: ‘The sociology of absences consists of an inquiry that aims to explain that what does not exist is, in fact, actively produced as non-existent, that is, as a non-credible alternative to what exists’ (Santos, 2004, p. 238).

Alternatively, the study of the recuperation of alternative knowledge systems, and by extension alternative temporalities, he called the sociology of emergences. Putting forward new practical courses, pathways and policies for social change requires new forms of legitimacy. The sociology of emergences is thus also about reestablishing the legitimacy and credibility of the alternative knowledge systems represented by the epistemology of the global south. This legitimacy can be reconnected with the idea of practical action, as diverse knowledges also reflect diverse modes of practical and effective action / existence in the world. For example, indigenous medicine as a knowledge system reflecting experience and efficacy, or permaculture or peer-to-peer practices as sets of ideas connected with existing and emerging practices and projects. The sociology of emergences thus addresses how present processes indicate or signpost alternative futures or changes, and relates directly to one of the core concerns of this paper, envisioning counter hegemonic futures for the commons. As Santos writes: ‘although declared non-existent by hegemonic rationality - the sociology of emergences aims to identify and enlarge the signs of possible future experiences, under the guise of tendencies and latencies, that are actively ignored by hegemonic rationality and knowledge’ (Santos, 2004a, p. 241). Projects to document and make visible such trends and seeds of change, such as through the Peer-to-Peer Foundation, the Commons Strategy Group (Bollier and Helfrich 2012) and many other efforts (Ramos 2010) can be said to be in-step with such a sociology of emergences.

The legitimacy of the epistemology of the global south also rests upon its diversity and commonality. The diversity expressed, for example, through World Social Forums (WSF) in the struggle against neoliberalism is, it can be argued, in part representative of the world’s diversity, across categories of gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, class, and language. This can be positioned in comparison to the more narrow representativeness of the sources and vectors of hegemonic rationality of state and market. This diversity, however, is not antithetical to the formation of commonality among the diverse knowledge systems that coexist. While the epistemology of the global south is an idea that brings together many epistemologies that have run through the WSF process and alter globalization movements, this diversity does not just come together as a expression of what they are against, but as well what they are for. My research on the WSF and alternative globalization movement, (and in this respect it extension through the occupy movement), reveals that the epistemology of the global south (and the “south in the north”) is fundamentally commons oriented in characteristic. Or as Ponniah (2006) has argued, the overarching direction of the WSF is the radical democratization of major spheres of common life: the governance of economy, culture, politics, and ecology (Ponniah, 2006). Together this implies bringing back social goods (economy, culture, politics, and ecology) back into a commons-based system of governance, through its radical democratization.

The temporalities of the global south reflect a variety of narratives, of past present and future. Not all of these narratives cohere or overlap, as the diversity among them is great. Moreover, an exploration of counter-hegemonic temporalities should reject a unitary vision of time, opting for systemic-holographic coherence and sense-making of temporalities. Santos’ concept of the ‘ecology of temporalities’ thus address ‘the idea that the subjectivity or the identity of a person or social group is a constellation of different times and temporalities...which are activated differently in different contexts and situations’ (Santos, 2006, p. 22), [and challenges the] ‘monoculture of linear time, the idea that history has a unique and well known meaning and direction’ (Santos, 2006, p. 16)."

(Re)cognizing the commons through nine lenses

Here I detail nine key discourses or perspectives that offer fundamentally different visions for the world. These can be considered counter hegemonic knowledges and temporalities, and indeed each one has a distinctly different narrative to the dominant hegemonic rationality. I do not argue that these are the only counter-hegemonic narratives that either exist or should be considered. These are merely the ones that I have uncovered from my research and which I feel qualified in articulating. Indeed, we need dialogue between diverse counter-hegemonic narratives, a process I call ‘meta-formative commonification’, and this is therefore also an invitation. In this next section I will thus provide a brief overview of the nine discourse’s narratives and temporalities, and how these connect with a substantive and long term vision for a commons oriented and nurturing world.

Reform LiberalismCosmopolitanismMeta-IndustrialismNeo-MarxismPost-Colonial Development(Re)localizationPeer-to-PeerSpiritual ActivismCo-Evolution


The network and peer-to-peer shift is based on a conception of global social transformation predicated on the emergence of post-industrial network societies using information and communications technologies. Through such technologies, a global counter hegemonic movement is made operable in a de-territorialised, trans-national and global sphere. As such, we have seen the emergence of a multiplicity of actors inter-linked in collaborative processes of social change, most recently seen through the Occupy and Arab Spring movements.

Castells was foundational in establishing the network as a fundamental ontological basis for understanding society. His study of social movements shows how networks are foundational in their structure and operation (Castells, 1996). Regardless of their social values, which span from the fundamentalism of al-Qaeda, the reactionary racism of the American militia movement, or the anti-capitalism of Zapatistas struggling for indigenous justice, these new movements are enabled and structurally coupled to network capabilities they make possible (Castells, 1996, pp. 71-156).

Michel Bauwens describes a critical historical from material and immaterial resources and production. He argues we are seeing a shift from a world typified by material abundance and immaterial scarcity, to a world typified by material scarcity and immaterial abundance. The latter is no guaranteed, and requires active construction. Historically human use and impacts on the natural world were low, natural resources have been abundant, human populations low. But in a pre-digital economy the availability of knowledge was limited, as replication of knowledge had to take a material form. Increasingly however, our material environment is typified by scarcity, while our immaterial environment contains the potential for radical abundance (via new commons based approaches to knowledge). While oil runs out, our capacity to share knowledge explodes. For Bauwens, this signifies a fundamental shift toward a new political economy. Industrial capitalism not only continues its unsustainable incursion and exploitation of the natural world, it also attempts to impose artificial scarcity on immaterial value (online art, science, knowledge, etc.). Given the trajectory of industrial capitalism, and the critical shift toward a world of material scarcity and potential for immaterial abundance, one can see fundamental contradictions.

The emergence of network technologies coincides with late capitalism, typified by the completion of extensive expansion and the beginning of intensive (life world) expansion. Yet, the network form holds the seeds of late capitalism’s ultimate demise, as the network form has given birth to online communities that are able to auto-produce goods and services outside of the ambit of dominant capitalist modes of production. Because of this, Bauwens argues peer to peer production can alter and arrest the characteristics of immaterial scarcity experienced under capitalist modes of production. Bauwens (2006) as such argues that peer to peer communities express fundamentally different commons nurturing orientations:

1) A New Mode of Production – [Peer-to-peer systems] “produce use-value through the free cooperation of producers who have access to distributed capital: this is the P2P production mode, a 'third mode of production' different from for-profit or public production by state-owned enterprises. Its product is not exchange value for a market, but use-value for a community of users.”

2) A New Mode of Governance - [Peer-to-peer systems] “are governed by the community of producers themselves, and not by market allocation or corporate hierarchy: this is the P2P governance mode, or 'third mode of governance.’”

3) A New Mode of Distribution - [Peer-to-peer systems] “make use-value freely accessible on a universal basis, through new common property regimes. This is its distribution or 'peer property mode': a 'third mode of ownership,' different from private property or public (state) property.“ (Bauwens 2006)

The peer-to-peer shift is one of the most critical perspectives in terms of facilitating the development of a commons oriented world. First, peer-to-peer practices have quickly built a global digital commons that could not have been imagined just a short time ago. Secondly, peer-to-peer enables the development of ‘Cosmo-localization’, whereby localized peer-to-peer production efforts draw from a peer-to-peer produced global commons-based pools of knowledge and designs. The emerging global knowledge commons has the potential to significantly improve human engagement with the environment, lowering resource costs and ecological impacts. Fourthly transnational knowledge commons strengthens efforts at localization and resilience. Peer-to-peer is the locale where experimentation is being done most actively toward the creation of new regimes of governance outside of state and market, with the creation of new legal frameworks. Finally, peer-to-peer processes can allow for the trans-local construction of global governance efforts and systems that can address a myriad of problems that transcend the jurisdiction of the nation-state, and is thus a core methodology by which to defend human values, such as atmospheric / oceanic protection, human rights, and security."

The democratic meta-formation of the commons

So where to from here? How do we make sense of the various strands of counter-hegemonic temporalities, their different narratives and visions for the future? There is no simple ‘Rosetta Stone’, no silver bullet. As can be seen in the diversity of counter-hegemonic discourses and temporalities, while there is a desire to create a coherent and strategic response and future agenda, the diversity of actors that represent variegated social alternatives and alternative futures is very great. Historically we sits dynamically between attempts to find a coherence of visions on one hand and between a dialogic process across the diversity of lived and embodied social alternatives, epistemes and imaginaries (Tormey, 2005; Ramos, 2012). While the quest for a single vision can be dismissed (as we do not want to bring back the nightmare of unitary doctrine), we nevertheless must find coherences between those envisioning that other possible world, and articulate these futures as mutually inclusive. Can the many existing social alternatives, or visions of a different world, come together in this emerging relational field under the banner of the commons?

One way through is to push past the either / or binary framing between ‘horizontalism’ and ‘verticalism’ that has defined the strategic landscape of options as a choice between either diversity or unity. Instead, one may see that the dynamic tension between the diverse manifestations of commons oriented projects and the drive to form an emergent discourse of the commons is nothing less than an ‘engine’ powering the project of transformation. Diversity gives dynamism to the movement, a ‘totality’ difficult to characterise and generalize, while the impulse toward solidarity around shared interests, coherence and collective action is what is needed to make such relational networks more efficacious in a world typified by corporate and state power. This dynamic tension, if harnessed, can facilitate new ‘commons’, new collective diagnoses of meta-challenges, collective formations, new solidarities, new reciprocations (pragmatic relationships), and concrete collaborations. One can call such dynamic coherences across diversities examples of ‘meta-formation’.

‘Meta-formation’ is both ideational and practical. Ideationally it is the transformation of the single (ideologically consistent) vanguard into a prismatic, pragmatic and multi-dimensional coherence. It is the shift from the ‘Manifesto’ to many ‘Manifestations’. ‘Manifestation’ is the transformation of a universalizing ‘manifesto’ into an iterative and situated proposal-in-process (Ramos, 2005). By avoiding the extremes of trying to create one unified vision or (everlasting) manifesto on the one hand, and avoiding the fragmentation typified by identity politics on the other, the dynamic tension between the desire for both coherence and diversity can facilitate the emergence of meta-formative potentials at different levels and in varying thematic contexts. Practically it is similar to Chesters and Welsh’s idea of ‘ecologies of action’ (Chesters, 2006, p. 153), where there is strategic coordination between diverse elements working together to create desired changes in the context of challenging and transforming entrenched power.

The innovation of the commons will be a collaborative affair, a process strengthened by the diverse set of actors that weave through the grand project. It is through the collaborative potentials strengthened by ‘webs of solidarity’, through which the precarious innovation of alternative commons nurturing existences can be enabled (Podlashuc, 2009). The epistemological and ontological complexity that exists in the commoning project makes a unified movement harder, but enhances the potential for collaborative meta-formation between diverse actors across every part of the world. This last meta-discourse thus concerns the inclusive and democratic meta-formation of diverse commons. It is from the grand diversity of the human species, across language, religion, discipline, ethnicity, out of which new solidarities and collaborations must be born. The peer-to-peer movement, which enables collaboration of global scale of potentially infinite variety of commons generating activities, is the logical vehicle and methodology for the construction of commons oriented visions articulated by people holding diverse counter hegemonic temporalities.

A strategic landscape for meta-formation

To conclude this article, I use a modified form of the strategic landscape developed by Wallerstein, to put forth some assumptions about and imagine how the meta-formation of the commons could be achieved. Wallerstein argued that global anti-systemic struggles must develop four attendant time-scales: a present centred open debate about the nature of the challenges, short term defensive action against attempts to privatise and colonize the commons, the mid-term de-commodification of aspects of life through a variety of initiatives, and development of long term ‘substantive’ visions for alternative futures (Wallerstein, 2002).

I drawn from Wallerstein’s normative direction to articulate a broader potential emerging strategic landscape. The key analytic thread that brings together the various actors that are part of the global struggle is the future as the exploration, articulation and creation a multi-definitional commons. The time-scales of the commons include:

1) The meta-formation of new common-ness through opening debates,

2) The short term defence of contextually specific commons,

3) The short to middle range extension of the legal and moral commons through the enfranchisment of the marginalised,

4) A more middle range building of the commons through de-commodifying social alternatives, and

5) Eutopian articulations of possible futures – the dialogic weaving of foundational discourses, emerging issues and imaginaries that inspire transformational change toward ‘Another Possible World’.

Meta-formation of new common-ness

The first category is similar to Wallerstein’s call for an ‘open debate’, but was extended to include dialogic processes leading to ‘meta-formations’, which includes both conceptual articulations (cognitive mapping of commonality, e.g. global class formation) and practical alliance building, solidarities, and processes of coherence building or movement building. This reflects the dialogic weaving of actors and movement(s) that served to build the internal coherence of a global movement to struggle and build a commons. Wallerstein’s idea of ‘open debates’ are thus more broadly construed as conversations to create coherence and meta-form mutual and reciprocal understandings (across diversity). Often this is not so much debate, but even more basic, ‘mutual recognition’ where different organizations can meet and discover other organizations in the first place, from where people can see a bigger pattern and build relatedness, trust and possibilities for collaboration. The mutual recognition of differences referred to by Santos’ ecology of recognitions is indeed the basis for the possibility of self referencing and meta-forming a greater whole and ‘common’. In this sense the first step in the future is mutual (re)cognition through dialogic processes.

By weaving together various strands of the struggles, a basis for meta-organizing can be created. The new role of the organic intellectual in the 21st century is thus ‘The bridge builder [able to] to communicate to different people in different languages and perspectives… [who] hold[s] the contradiction of many elements and transcend[s] these contradictions to create something new’. The metaphor of ‘bridge building’ is foundational, and includes bridging themes / issues, bridging organizational / social spaces, and bridging ideological perspectives, as a ‘single issue focus does not work because we don’t experience our lives through single issues, but rather as a complex of issues.’ And this weaving of an emergent commons requires a cognitive reflexivity as ‘We are coming out of a schematic politics, where there are political templates that we force on reality, as opposed to going to people and asking people what it is they want from life’ (Ramos 2010). This first step requires a new generation of agents of meta-formative emergence to development.

Today we need peer-to-peer projects and platforms that can facilitate dialogic coherence toward the meta-formation of new discourses of the commons, common-ness as identify, practical solidarity and collaboration.

Defence of contextually specific commons

This second category connects strongly to Wallerstein’s second strategic category: 'short-term, defensive action’ (Wallerstein, 2002, p. 38). While Wallerstein focuses on the need to stop the trend of the neo-liberal commodification of life, what emerges here is a more general ‘defence of the commons’ across a number of contextually specific areas. These include resistance to corporate predation on resources, resistance to risk generating activity (e.g. nuclear / nano / weapons technologies), defence of ecosystems (such as oceanic and atmospheric commons), resistance to militarism and neo-colonialism, the defence of peace and security through peace activism, and defending political space and the right to dissent. Defensive action against attempts to commodity elements of common heritage are important here: against patenting genes, against the patenting of seeds, against the privitization of water, and against the commodification of inner and outer space (preserving mental and physical commons).

In this short term we need peer-to-peer projects and platforms that facilitate the defence of contextually specific commons. Many communities across the world feel isolated in their struggles against highly organized economic forces and incursions. The defence of indigenous lands, ecosystems under threat, oceans, atmosphere, genetic information, water, and the like, need to be empowered as a fundamental dimension of promoting a commons oriented world. Peer-to-peer projects are capable of transnational encirclement, meaning that peer-to-peer activism and solidarity can amplify the ‘boomerang effect’ whereby contextually specific and localized commons can be defended through transnational solidarities.

Extension of the legal and moral commons

The ‘extension of the commons’ describes the movement toward a universal enfranchisement of human rights. It is related to defending the commons in so far as it is a defence against the exploitation of the weak, but it is focused on addressing and remedying the exploitation or subjugation of specific marginalized people, through righting imbalances of power and efforts at legal, political, and social enfranchisement / empowerment. There is a strong connection here with cosmopolitan concerns for universal ethics (Hayden, 2004; Held, 1995; Singer, 2002) and Sklair’s vision of socialist globalization (Sklair, 2002). This includes addressing the legal disempowerment of people (indigenous and slum dwellers), structural violence (racism, land theft), enfranchisement via statelessness and statehood (refugees, asylum seeker rights and independence struggles), and marginalization due to unequal abilities (disability rights) and difference (lesbian, gay, trans-gender).

In the medium term, peer-to-peer platforms and projects can play an important role in the extension of the legal and moral commons through the enfranchisment of the marginalised. This will require more robust, proactive and sophisticated peer-to-peer processes that enable trans-local collaboration to weave and construct law and policy by and for the marginalized. Peer-to-peer platforms would be developed in order to construct new institutions of global governance, much like the ICC was developed through citizen-based yet professional transnational advocacy. New institutions, like a tribunal for the defence of indigenous peoples, an oceanic governance organization, an adjudicating body for the rights of refugees, and a number of other institutions would be developed through transnational peer-to-peer processes. Both the in-kind resources, capital funding, expertise, manner of management and governance, and the substantial vision and identity of these institutions would be developed through peer-to-peer means that includes transnational scope of collaboration at different scales and abilities.

Building de-commodified alternatives for the commons

‘Building the commons’ describes the development (embodied or articulated) of alternatives as organizational / community innovations, strategic initiatives and proposals to create common and shared public goods. It is reflective of Wallerstein’s third strategic category of ‘middle-range goals' toward the progressive de-commodification against neoliberal attempts to commodify the commons (Wallerstein, 2002, p. 38) and thus reflects the progressive development and enactment of alternatives toward shared resources, shared securities, shared equities, and cooperative living. This includes the building of local community-based commons, challenging monopolistic property regimes and articulating land commons, building structures and policies for social equity (health, literacy, education), educational initiatives, knowledge and informational commons, advocating for a biological commons, developing a political commons (challenging special interests and developing transparent and participatory structures of governance), developing a transport commons, energy commons, productive commons and spiritual and ‘mental commons’. Peer to peer projects and platforms for co-developing commons based goods are a core strategy here.

At a longer-term range peer-to-peer platforms and projects would be key in building new commons through the development of de-commodifying social alternatives. We already see the development of alternative systems of resource control, such as copyleft, that break from the strict adherence to positivist law. Many other social alternatives can be built and developed over time that would open up key aspects of social life that were considered primarily within the realm of the private sphere, such as housing, transport, scientific research publications, into a commons oriented system of production and control following Bauwen’s (2006) framework (highlighted earlier).

Re-cognizing the commons

The last category, which I call ‘re-cognizing the commons’, manifests a blend between present trends and emerging possibilities. Some are eutopian projections predicated on key discourses that allow for an imaginary and possibility of transformational change corresponding to Santos’ ‘anticipatory consciousness’ (via Ernst Block’s category of the ‘not yet’) and Wallerstein’s argument for a debate about ‘the substantive meaning of our long term emphasis’ (Santos, 2006, p. 39). This anticipatory landscape includes the ideas presented in this article, but of course many more.

The global struggle, as expressed though the anti/alter globalization movement, the World Social Forum, the Occupy movement, and other struggles reveal localized and embodied aspirations for commons-based global futures, and in this way produce distinct visions of alternative futures of the world, reflecting Santos’ idea that counter hegemonic visions for the world are based on alternative local visions. This eutopianism in its diversity is a challenge to the hegemony of the monological hegemonic vision we live with today. The last aspect of ‘re-cognizing the commons’ thus represents how we think about the future, a reflexive process of re-framing how the future is cognised that allows for a participatory and demiurgic process of meta-cognizing time through the diverse tapestries of collective aspirations and anticipations. We need peer-to-peer projects that engage people deeply in thinking about the world they want to ultimately create for future generations. This process should challenge the mental framework we commonly hold, inviting an unlearning and questioning of our deepest certainties about ‘the future’, and an inspiring re-imagining of our shared and common futures."