Enacting the Relational Complexities of More-Than-Human Urban Commoners

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* Article/Chapter:Expanding the subject of planning: enacting the relational complexities of more-than-human urban common(er)s. By Jonathan Metzger. Chapter in: Kirwan, S., Brigstocke, J. & Dawney, L. (eds). Space, Power and the Making of the Commons, London: Routledge, 2015.

URL = https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286865625_Expanding_the_subject_of_planning_enacting_the_relational_complexities_of_more-than-human_urban_commoners


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There is no abstract, this is the framing of the article, first paragraphs in the text, by Jonathan Metzger:

"In a text outlining a proposition for urban “commons planning” the respected critical urban theorist Peter Marcuse (Marcuse, 2009a) opens with an epigraph of the first stanza of an English anti-enclosure folk poem from the 17th century:

The law locks up the man or woman, 
Who steals a goose from off the common, 
But leaves the greater villain loose 
Who steals the common from the goose.  

In the continuation of Marcuse’s text it becomes obvious that for him, the goose merely plays the role of a passive prop in his continued reflections on the urban commons and their distribution, which instead becomes implicitly framed as an exclusively and exclusionary human problem. It appears as if to Marcuse, the ‘problem of the commons’, of how to best care for the commons in general – and urban commons in specific – was self-evidently to be understood as a question concerning how to divide up the benefits of the commons.

In this book chapter I aim at destabilizing this generally taken-for-granted basic assumption in discussions on urban commons. I ask myself: what happens if we read the above cited stanza differently, and perhaps somewhat more literally, to also consider that the goose herself might actually hold a legitimate claim to the commons, including any specifically urban such? I further propose that such a reconceptualization of the commons might be completely necessary in the light of the current challenges facing us humans as a species, presently becoming identified through its causes as the Anthropocene (Zalasiewicz et al, 2010), or – more dramatically – through its consequences, as the Sixth Extinction (Barnosky et al., 2011). What both these terms highlight is how we humans collectively as a species (albeit, some of us drastically more than others) at present appear to be busy not only undermining our own planetary preconditions of existence, but further continuously – to greater or lesser extents – perpetrating the ‘greater villainy’ of stealing the commons on a planetary scale from the goose and myriads of other beings and existences, and thereby also generating a perverted feedback loop through which we even more rapidly accelerate the pace of our own probable demise." (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286865625_Expanding_the_subject_of_planning_enacting_the_relational_complexities_of_more-than-human_urban_commoners)


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