Occupy the Commons


The blogpost below was first published in the Community Knowledge Garden of the School of Commoning, under the title “Occupy the Commons — an invitation.”

“In considering the essential problem of how to produce and distribute material wealth, virtually all of the great economists in Western history have ignored the significance of the commons — the shared resources of nature and society that people inherit, create and utilize.” James Quilligan, commons thinker and activist, in “Beyond State Capitalism: The Commons Economy in our Lifetimes

Visiting with my family in the USA last month, I went to an Occupy Santa Rosa march, where I had a chance to march with my 3.5-yr grand daughter (in her pushchair).  That moment meant and means a lot to me. It became a strong driver of my energy to co-create a word with all of us, in which Stella and ALL children can grow to their highest potential, not constrained by the interest of Private Property and its twin brother, Unchecked Greed. “The cause of all wars, riots and injustices is the existence of property.” (St. Augustine)

The Occupy movement is the first worldwide social movement since the failure of Communism, which has a potential to lead to more joy and dignity in the life of more people than any other social movement before. Whether it will realize that potential will depend largely, on the activists scaling up their skills, rapidly, from organizing protest to building the institutions of the new, real democracy.

It’s also a question of, as pointed to by Michel Bauwens in a teach-in at OWS, Liberty Plaza, on 2nd November 2011: Can the movements develop “alternatives that can change our lives and allow us to live our values right now? This is what commons-based peer production provides – a new way of producing value… A ‘commons’ rather than ‘market state’ orientation is a fruitful way to think about solving humanity’s problems in a new way.”

(Michel Bauwens is founder of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives, a global collaborative researching peer production that maps the thousands of p2p projects being created to achieve mutual alignment and a growing counter economy that can co-exist and perhaps even supersede today’s dysfunctional one.)

The future depends on us and our capacity to discover the answers to this world-changing question. What will it take to 1. “Create a framework in which the incentives behind production and governance are not private capital and debt-based growth, but human solidarity, quality of life and ecological sustainability? 2. Organize effectively as a third power to develop checks and balances on the private and public sectors and establish the resource sovereignty and preservation value needed for a commons economy?”

Those questions came from James Quilligan’s presentation on Managing the Local and Global Commons, at a MeetUp of the School of Commoning (SoC), on Sept 26, 2011. Do those questions matter to you?

If yes and you want to explore them further, please say so here, in a reply to this post or on the Facebook page of SoC. Be among the firsts to explore the implications of some interesting lessons from the commons movement that Occupy may consider re-using.

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Categories: Commons, Economics, Frameworks & Models

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