‘Reinventing Law For The Commons’
Above Photo: REUTERS/Molly Riley
Note: Last month, Margaret Flowers and I interviewed David Bollier on the developments in the commons in light of the ongoing push towards privatization and commodification of everything. We are in a disastrous cycle: As wealth inequality grows and the rich successfully avoid taxes, the funds for necessary programs and projects is shrinking. This is driving privatization of basic needs like water systems, transportation, schools and more. Some cities are taking action to oppose this trend by developing the commons, putting control and benefit into the hands of the people. David Bollier joined us to discuss the expansion of the commons movement. Listen to the podcast here. KZ
Nicos Poulantzas Institute in cooperation with transform! europe organized an open lecture of David Bollier, researcher, activist and writer of a series of books concerning Commons. Find here the short report of the event on 14 February.
Nicos Poulantzas Institute is working on Commons during the last four years, focusing on areas as water and its management as a common good, digital commons and applied policies on Commons related to productions model transformation. D. Bollier’s speech was organized in order to complete the picture by referring to the argent need of reinventing a law for the Commons.
In countries around the world, Bollier noted, a burgeoning ‘Commons Sector’ is developing effective, ecological alternatives to the increasingly dysfunctional market/state system. Commons are developing new types of food-growing and -distribution systems, alternative currencies to retain community value, platform co-operatives for online sharing, multistakeholder co-ops, open design and manufacturing systems, land trusts, co-learning projects, and much else. The goal in most instances is to meet essential human needs through inclusive participation, the decommodification of relationships, collaborative social organization, and long-term stewardship that links responsibilities and benefits.
The growth of the Commons Sector faces significant barriers from conventional law, however, because the state privileges individual property rights and market exchange, and even criminalizes commoning. Fixated on extractive economic growth, state policies do not recognize the actual value created through Commons. This reality that has forced commoners to devise ingenious ‘hacks’ on the law, as possible, to protect their ability to collectively manage seeds, water, farming, housing and much else.
To legalize and support commoning, Bollier calls for a new field of legal inquiry to validate and develop new forms of commons-based law. We need new types of effective legal mechanisms to help incubate, maintain and defend commons. Bollier argues that this is an essential challenge to meet if we are to imagine and invent fair economic and governance systems that can work for everyone.
David Bollier is cofounder of the Commons Strategies Group, an international advocacy project, and Director of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics (US).
His work on Commons can be found in his blog. See in particular ‘The Greek Left Takes Stock of the Commons’ here.
Video of the lecture in Athens on 14 February