[p2p-research] The role of the commons and the state

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 28 05:33:35 CEST 2009


James Quilligan: 21st century commons, the new social charters, and the
State <http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=4649>
[image: photo of Michel Bauwens] Michel Bauwens
28th August 2009

 Very interesting, and crucial contribution, by *James Quilligan*:

*“In my view, many commons need a social contract negotiated between the
commoners and the state. Each one should be negotiated on its own terms.
There may be pure commons management on one hand, or perhaps state-commons
hybrids on the other — but that’s up to the commoners to negotiate with the
state. This is not a sell-out. It’s to protect the commons and also to help
evolve the future role of the state. Let’s face it, governments are not
going to somehow melt away. We wouldn’t want that anyway, because government
provides security and other public goods that we commoners cannot provide
for ourselves. The libertarian and fundamentalist private sector folks are
(hopefully) learning the hard lesson that the state is a precondition for
civilization — and the commoners mustn’t allow the Right’s ideologically
conditioned condemnation of the state to carry over into our own thinking.
This doesn’t mean a regressive retreat to the likes of the social welfare
state or Keynesianism. The next step for us to consider is creating social
charters — not state constitutions but charters that are negotiated and
apply to specific commons — to determine how our commons trusts are formed
and the work that they will carry out, locally, regionally, and
globally.It’s not that the commoners have to reach after moral
legitimacy (we have
that), but we certainly do need legal legitimacy and authority on our own
terms, on the basis of birthrights and customary claims to the sources of
our livelihood and well-being, not on the basis of the old liberal social
contract. Hence, the social charters. The sense of a revolutionary change in
the nature of what government does — as it faces the transformational power
of the commons — needs to be faced squarely by all of us. Frankly, without
the help of the state, how are commoners ever going to stop these privatized
enclosures? Yet commoners often focus on the legal aspects of property
rights vis a vis corporations and ignore the potential legal benefits
accruing from the state. The corporations wouldn’t be enjoying their rights
of ‘corporate personhood’ in the first place if the state had not granted
them, and, as you know, commoners have grown to mistrust the state (rightly
so!) because it has broken the social contract with us in order to empower
and privilege businesses. But that flow of legal and political power can be
neutralized, even reversed, if we recognize that the deadweight is not
property, but private property. We need to turn legally recognized property
rights to our favor, and that can only be done in cooperation with the state
and the rule of law. The governance of a commons is not the same thing as
the legal protections afforded by the state — the two things must not be
equated, but I’m afraid many commoners have indeed conflated them, somehow
assuming that the co-governance of a commons is all that’s needed. That’s
reductionist thinking.*

*Multilateralism 2.0*

*“Multilateralism gets a bad name because it’s associated with governments
and their limited abilities to provide people- and ecologically-centered
goods and services through international cooperation. *

*That’s certainly the case at the present. Let’s not forget that the
multilateral institutions were initially created after WW II to provide
global public goods. This experiment has been bungled for many reasons,
mainly the one that you note, that Neo-Liberal ideology has taken over. That
philosophy needs to be rooted out from the bottom-up, yes, but it cannot
happen without sympathetic support from the top-down. Yet this is not simply
a matter of tone, it’s a matter of actual laws and institutions. The commons
will never scale up to the global level (or, to put it another way, become
scale-free) simply through associations of like-minded commoners. It also
needs institutional support from governments and the private sector, of
course, to the extent that they will endorse this tripartite arrangement;
but it also requires institutional support at the transboundary level of
global common goods. The sky, the Arctic, the seabeds all need to have
specific watchdogs and managers — who is capable of organizing that? Not
commoners, not public sector or private sector. They have no authority to do
so and never will under the current circumstances. That’s why the commoners
and multilateral institutions are (ultimately) natural allies — which
commoners have not yet realized. The break will come when government power
evolves upwardly to empower new multilateral institutions in charge of
managing specific global commons, and downwardly to the commoners who are
vigilantly watching the commons across the world and who will work alongside
the multilateral institutions for the protection of the commons — now with
actual authority for the global commons. The time will come when commoners
will sit on the board of the (existing and new) multilateral institutions,
along with government reps (let’s keep the private sector out of this). I
don’t see anyone grappling with these matters in the conference document —
our commoners appear to be walking over a cliff without a global vision.
This needn’t happen. The commons offers us the ability to transform
multilateralism, but there is not the slightest hint of that here.
Redefining Neo-Liberal ideology is not the same as transforming our existing
multilateralism — these changes are not going to happen through ideology
alone. That’s where the pernicious dichotomy of the digital commons Vs. the
physical commons creeps in — the Neo-Liberal mistrust and penchant for
enclosure and division is reified by underscoring the specious ideological
rift between non-depletable and depletable goods and translating this into
major North-South differences (we’re seeing this at the WTO as well as the
Copenhagen talks, and it will continue to develop without the global commons
discourse). The split in our Solidarity is not inevitable, but first we are
all going to have to embrace globalism rather than shun it. Someone must
elaborate, in calm and definitive terms, the holarchical unity of the
noosphere, the biosphere and the physiosphere (which can only be balanced
through a new multilateralism) — or we will not merely have conflicts over
resources, we will have a global conflict between the ideological
representatives of each of these spheres — wars between the ‘replenishables’
and the ‘non-replenishables’. Without a multilateralism of the commons, this
rift will fester and be exploited — not only by our own internal critics —
but also by the masters of Neo-Liberalism. Then the commons will become an
‘ism’, we will be positioned against ourselves globally, and all of us can
probably expect the worst. That’s what we’ll get without Multilateralism 2.0
— which only our commoners can spearhead (and co- create) by continuing to
evolve the broadest possible concept of the commons.” *

Work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhurakij_Pundit_University - Research:
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