Skip to content


Explaining The Commons Economy

What Is The Commons Economy? It’s an economy in which the essentials of life – housing, energy, land, food, water, transport, social care, the means of exchange etc. are owned in common, in communities, rather than by absentee landlords, corporations or the state. Commons have 3 parts: a) resources / assets, b) ‘commoners’ – local people who control and use them, and c) a set of rules, written by the commoners, so that they’re not lost, by being sold or used up. We’re not talking about ‘open access’ public goods like the oceans, atmosphere, sunlight or rainfall or ‘anything to do with building community’, but commons based on the principles laid out by Elinor Ostrom in Governing the Commons.

Hannes Gerhardt: From Capital To Commons

Gerhardt has a firm grasp of the extensive literature on Internet culture over the past fifty years – the critiques, histories, and technical controversies. What distinguishes his book from many others about the Internet is his political acuity in assessing the challenges. He offers chapters on “democratizing infrastructure” such as the electric grid and the Internet itself, as well as on how to support “design global, manufacture local” production. Unlike many techies, Gerhardt is also mindful of the limits of the natural world, so he devotes space to localism, urban waste, and agriculture as a renewable resource.

The Campaign For An Amsterdam Food Park

Why is Amsterdam, a city famous for its progressive culture, so determined to build a big-box distribution center on a 60-hectare plot of unspoiled land on the edge of the city? Despite the obvious downsides of the idea, politicians and city officials seem more eager to cater to the Amazon retailers of the world than to plan for climate disruption, a carbon-frugal economy, and wiser land use. The City seems poised to sell or lease the public’s crown jewels – land – on behalf of a world of economic growth, consumerism, and carbon emissions. Thanks to a spirited campaign by thousands of Amsterdam citizens, however, an alternative future for the land may yet materialize.

The Peasants Are Seizing The Commons (Again)

Devon, England - A ghostly rider on a skeletal horse is said to roam the windswept moors of southwestern England. According to legend, ​“Old Crockern” guards the sprawling expanse of Dartmoor from those who would try to close it off from commoners. In January, more than 3,000 locals invoked Old Crockern’s spirit in one of the United Kingdom’s largest-ever countryside access protests. To beating drums and cheers, they hoisted a massive puppet of the ghostly rider as they marched across the estate of a wealthy landowner, protesting a court decision that would further shrink access to England’s already endangered commons.

Pirate Care, A Syllabus

Alarmed that certain types of caring for people has been criminalized, a large group of Europeans assembled a course syllabus in 2019 on what they call “Pirate Care.” As the convenors of the project explained, “We live in a world where captains get arrested for saving people’s lives on the sea; where a person downloading scientific articles faces 35 years in jail; where people risk charges for bringing contraceptives to those who otherwise couldn’t get them. Folks are getting in trouble for giving food to the poor, medicine to the sick, water to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless. And yet our heroines care and disobey. They are pirates.” Hence the idea of “pirate care” – and the need to offer humanitarian or lifesaving care even if the state chooses to criminalize it. 

A New Model For Community-Owned Farmland

Today Agrarian Trust announces the launch of a transformative new model for community-based farm and ranch ownership and tenure, the Agrarian Commons. After several years of development and collaborative input, the Agrarian Commons launches in 10 states across the country. Co-founded with 12 farms representing 2,400 acres of diversified agriculture serving local foodsheds and communities, the Agrarian Commons is a profoundly collaborative endeavor and central to Agrarian Trust’s mission to support land access for the next generation of farmers. Agrarian Trust was founded in 2013 to address the staggering loss of farmland and the extreme challenges facing farmland seekers. Initially launched as a project of the Schumacher Center for New Economics, Agrarian Trust was established by a diverse group of stakeholders from across the United States, many of them farm service providers and beginning farmers who have witnessed firsthand the formidable obstacles facing agriculture’s next generation.

Russia Slams US Order To Privatize Outer Space

Russian officials on Tuesday criticized a US executive order paving the way for the exploitation of off-earth resources. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be "unacceptable" for the US to unilaterally privatize space. Roscosmos deputy director Sergei Saveliev went further, arguing that the order would allow the US to occupy off-earth territories. He said it undermined the spirit of international cooperation in space. "Attempts to expropriate outer space and aggressive plans to actually seize territories of other planets hardly set the countries for fruitful cooperation," Saveliev said. US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order establishing US policy on the exploitation resources in space.

The Horror Films Got It Wrong; COVID-19 Turned Us Into Caring Neighbors

You can watch neoliberalism collapsing in real-time. Governments whose mission was to shrink the state, to cut taxes and borrowing and dismantle public services, are discovering that the market forces they fetishised cannot defend us from this crisis. The theory has been tested, and almost everywhere abandoned. It may not be true that there were no atheists in the trenches, but there are no neoliberals in a pandemic. The shift is even more interesting than it first appears. Power has migrated not just from private money to the state, but from both market and state to another place altogether: the commons. All over the world, communities have mobilised where governments have failed. In India, young people have self-organised on a massive scale to provide aid packages for “daily wagers”: people without savings or stores, who rely entirely on cash flow that has now been cut off.

The ZAD: Revenge Against The Commons

From making our own bread to running a pirate radio station, planting herbal medicine gardens to making ‘rebel camembert’, from a rap recording studio to a pasta production workshop, an artisanal brewery to two blacksmiths’ forges, a communal justice system to a library and even a full-scale working lighthouse – the ZAD has become a new commune for the 21st century. This beautifully-imperfect utopia in resistance against an airport has been supported by a radically diverse popular movement, bringing together tens of thousands of anarchists and farmers, trade unionists and naturalists, environmentalists and students, locals and revolutionaries of every flavour. Everything changed on 17 January 2018, when the French prime minister appeared on TV to cancel the airport project – and in the same breath declare that the ZAD, the ‘outlaw zone’, would be evicted and ‘law and order’ restored.

Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017

By Peter Linebaugh for Counterpunch. The constitution of the U.S.A. began when an assembly of rich white bankers, lawyers, and slave owners gathered behind closed doors in Philadelphia in 1787. They organized a government which in the first instance monopolized money-making and war-making and in the second instance did so with a series of legal mechanisms to minimize democracy – the Electoral College, the 3/5s clause, the Senate, the Supreme Court – so familiar to us. They were led by “the father of the constitution,” a man owning more than a hundred slaves, James Madison. He makes clear the fear that underlay this constitution; it was omnia sunt communia. The states ratified this constitution over the next two years in no small part because of the tireless efforts of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison collected in The Federalist Papers. The tenth of these papers tells it all. There Madison expresses his fear of “theoretic politicians,” that is, those who advocated an “agrarian law” or equalization of land, those who favored “perfect equality,” those who were “equalized in their possessions.” In brief, the U.S.A. was to become a massive state against the commons. This was an appeal to the men of property, the men of private property, the men who commanded property as capital.

How To Form A Global Counter-Economy

By Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis for Open Democracy. We outline a list of six interrelated strategies for post-corporate entrepreneurial coalitions. The aim is to go beyond the classical corporate paradigm, and its extractive profit-maximizing practices, toward the establishment of open cooperatives that cultivate a commons-oriented economy. First, it’s important to recognize that closed business models are based on artificial scarcity. Though knowledge can be shared easily and at very low marginal cost when it is in digital form, closed firms use artificial scarcity to extract rents from the creation or use of digitized knowledge. Through legal repression or technological sabotage, naturally shareable goods are made artificially scarce so that extra profits may be generated. This is particularly galling in the context of life-saving medicines or planet-regenerating technological knowledge. Open cooperatives, in comparison, would recognize natural abundance and refuse to generate revenue by making abundant resources artificially scarce.

Re-Imagining Value: Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace & Nature

By David Bollier. What is “value” and how shall we protect it? It’s a simple question for which we don’t have a satisfactory answer. For conventional economists and politicians, the answer is simple: value is essentially the same as price. Value results when private property and “free markets” condense countless individual preferences and purchases into a single, neutral representation of value: price. That is seen as the equivalent of “wealth.” This theory of value has always been flawed, both theoretically and empirically, because it obviously ignores many types of “value” that cannot be given a price. No matter, it "works," and so this theory of value generally prevails in political and policy debates. Economic growth (measured as Gross Domestic Product) and value are seen as the same.

Newsletter: Privatization vs. The People

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. The essence of privatization today is to turn a public good into a profit center for Wall Street. US economic policy has created a wealth class that is grotesquely wealthy and under-taxed so that it has the money government needs to provide public services. This forces the government to borrow money from or sell a public service to the privateers or to create a public-private partnership (disguised corporate welfare and crony capitalism) in order to provide essential services. There is another way. We’ve reached a tipping point, as evidenced by the worldwide revolt through Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Indignados and other movements. We can reverse the trend toward privatization and inequality by claiming the commons for our mutual prosperity. If we believe in a more just, sustainable and democratic world, a world based on the common good, we will build the foundation for a world in which people work together to solve common problems and create an equitable economy that betters the lives for all.

Building The Commons As An Antidote To Predatory Capitalism

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Moving Beyond Capitalism. We've reached a tipping point in awareness of the effects of the current global economy that has erupted in a worldwide revolt as we can see in the Occupy, Arab Spring, Idle No More and Indignado movements. People are searching for alternative ways of structuring the economy and society that are empowering and more just and sustainable. Part of this work includes understanding and building the "commons," which is the opposite of the predatory market economy. As we will describe below, concentrated wealth is derived by taking from the commons for personal gain in an undemocratic way. We can reverse the current trend toward privatization and wealth inequality by claiming the commons and using it for mutual prosperity. The commons cannot exist without a participatory governance structure. Therefore, building the commons is a fundamental step toward real democracy.

Barcelona’s Struggle To Create The City As A Commons

By David Bollier for Shareable - On a visit to Barcelona last week, I learned a great deal about the city’s pioneering role in developing "the city as a commons." I also learned that crystallizing a new commons paradigm -- even in a city committed to cooperatives and open digital networks -- comes with many gnarly complexities. The Barcelona city government is led by former housing activist Ada Colau, who was elected mayor in May 2015. She is a leader of the movement that became the political party Barcelona En Comú (“Barcelona in Common”). Once in office, Colau halted the expansion of new hotels, a brave effort to prevent “economic development” (i.e., tourism) from hollowing out the city’s lively, diverse neighborhoods.
Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.