Commons against and beyond capitalism

Abstract: This essay contrasts the logic underlining the production of ‘commons’ with the logic of capitalist relations, and describes the conditions under which ‘commons’ become the seeds of a society beyond state and market. It also warns against the danger that ‘commons’ may be coopted to provide low-cost forms of reproduction, and discusses how this outcome can be prevented.

Community Development Journal, Vol 49, No S1, January 2014, pp. i92– i105

How to construct the alternative to capitalism? Discovering the commons in the environmental justice movements

Environmental justice movements are taking place at an ever accelerating rate through out the world. Through mobilization of people with diverse societal backgrounds, race, ethnicity, age, gender and income levels, they not only challenge the existing state-society-economy spectrum but also contain important clues about an alternative to capitalism. As crisis vocabulary has become a chronic part of today’s neoliberal world, an alternative to capitalism is sought by many. Since environmental justice movements are one of the most widespread counter-hegemonic movements, and that they counter capital by their nature, understanding the demands of the participants might shed a light on an alternative world design. All in all, only an alternative design which addresses and understands the demands of the people challenging the current system can offer a true alternative to it. Accordingly, this article aims to find out what originates from community based environmental justice movements in the South about an alternative world design. It aspires to empower the link between the de-growth paradigm and the grassroots community demands. It comparatively evaluates the protestors’ demands, and visions about an alternative world design in two environmental justice movements, Bergama and Artvin protests.

First North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimiento, México City 2018 – De las economías de la guerra a la economía del común

Conferencia de la Plenaria del Jueves por Andrea Neira: “De las economías de la guerra a la economía del común. Desafío y disputas del sujeto neoliberal desde las nuevas configuraciones de las FARC en Colombia hoy”

Transition within a transition: how cooperative platforms want to change the sharing economy

Scholars have argued that the sharing economy represents a transitional pathway to sustainability. The growth, however, of multi-national giants, such as Airbnb or Uber, has created new environmental, social, and economic problems and led many to question the dominant form of the sharing economy. In this paper, we study a transition within a transition—that is the emergence of a new niche of cooperative platforms within the sharing economy. We examine how promoters and followers of Fairbnb, a nascent cooperative alternative to Airbnb, frame and envision their project and then discuss tensions, debates, and limits around their ideas and business model. We find that their primary motivations are to mitigate the negative effects of mass tourism, to prevent the extraction of wealth from local economies, and to sustain a prosperous social business. Tensions are found around limitations of democratic governance, decentralization, and size of the project.

Sustainability Science, April 2020

Intervention – Small and local are not only beautiful; they can be powerful

Cosmolocalism emerges from technology initiatives that are small-scale and oriented towards addressing local problems, but simultaneously engage with globally asynchronous collaborative production through digital commoning. We thus connect such a discussion with two ongoing grassroots developments: first, a cosmolocal response to the coronavirus pandemic; and, second, an ongoing effort of French and Greek communities of small-scale farmers, activists and researchers to address their local needs.

Rivers of empire : water, aridity, and the growth of the American West

The American West, blessed with an abundance of earth and sky but cursed with a scarcity of life’s most fundamental need, has long dreamed of harnessing all its rivers to produce unlimited wealth and power. In Rivers of Empire, award-winning historian Donald Worster tells the story of this dream and its outcome. He shows how, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, Mormons were the first attempting to make that dream a reality, damming and diverting rivers to irrigate their land. He follows this intriguing history through the 1930s, when the federal government built hundreds of dams on every major western river, thereby laying the foundation for the cities and farms, money and power of today’s West. Yet while these cities have become paradigms of modern American urban centers, and the farms successful high-tech enterprises, Worster reminds us that the costs have been extremely high. Along with the wealth has come massive ecological damage, a redistribution of power to bureaucratic and economic elites, and a class conflict still on the upswing. As a result, the future of this “hydraulic West” is increasingly uncertain, as water continues to be a scarce resource, inadequate to the demand, and declining in quality.

Rivers of Empire represents a radically new vision of the American West and its historical significance. Showing how ecological change is inextricably intertwined with social evolution, and reevaluating the old mythic and celebratory approach to the development of the West, Worster offers the most probing, critical analysis of the region to date. He shows how the vast region encompassing our western states, while founded essentially as colonies, have since become the true seat of the American “Empire.” How this imperial West rose out of desert, how it altered the course of nature there, and what it has meant for Thoreau’s (and our own) mythic search for freedom and the American Dream, are the central themes of this eloquent and thought-provoking story–a story that begins and ends with water.

P2P Accounting for Planetary Survival

Towards a P2P Infrastructure for a Socially-Just Circular Society

How shared perma-circular supply chains, post-blockchain distributed ledgers, protocol cooperatives, and three new forms of post-capitalist accounting, could very well save the planet.

The key issue addressed in this study is how to change a system which incentivizes and rewards extraction — but cannot recognize and reward the wealth created by generative activities — towards a system which is able to reward and incentivize generative practices.

Climate justice, commons, and degrowth

Abstract: Economic inequality reduces the political space for addressing climate change, by producing fear-based populism. Only when the safety, social status, and livelihoods of all members of society are assured will voluntary, democratic decisions be possible to reverse climate change and fairly mitigate its effects. Socio-environmental and climate justice, commoning, and decolonization are pre-conditions for participatory, responsible governance that both signals and assists the development of equitable socio-political systems. Degrowth movements, when they explicitly prioritize equity, can help to focus activism for climate justice and sustainable livelihoods.

This paper overviews the theoretical grounding for these arguments, drawing from the work of ecofeminist and Indigenous writers.

Indigenous (and also ecofeminist) praxis is grounded in activists’ leadership for commoning and resistance to extraction, the fossil fuel economy, and commodified property rights. These movements are building a politics of decolonization, respect, solidarity, and hope rather than xenophobia and despair.

Ecological Economics, Volume 160, June 2019, pp. 183-190

Ecology and Justice: Contributions from the margins

The publisher: Political ecology is a research approach that combines the disciplinary tools of ecology as well as political economy to address the relations between humans and nature, and various outcomes of social and cultural norms that determine different human communities’ access to nature. Political ecology seeks explanations and interpretations of the phenomena resulting from the human-nature interaction, such as conflicts over resources, which appreciate both the ecological processes and the political power struggles. Aspects of political ecology rooted in commons research, materialism, feminist development critiques, environmental history, post-colonial studies and science and technology studies are reflected in different chapters of this volume. As the average global warming exceeds 1°C, many of the world’s most vulnerable people’s resilience responses are already overwhelmed. The Anthropocene is upon us, bringing the catastrophic outlook to the present, not some distant future. The catastrophic outlook anchors the idea of progress in the idea of catastrophe, the fact that things just cannot go on as they are.

ISBN: 978-953-58938-2-0

Common Good-Oriented Companies: Exploring Corporate Values, Characteristics and Practices That Could Support a Development Towards Degrowth

At present, little is known about the corporate characteristics that support a socio-economic development towards degrowth. Addressing this research gap, we conducted interviews with companies which have joined the Economy for the Common Good, a social movement which identifies the common good as the purpose of economic activity. Our analysis was guided by Latouche’s (2009) eight ‘R’s which, he claims, should trigger a transformation towards degrowth: re-evaluate, reconceptualize, restructure, redistribute, relocalize, reduce, re-use and recycle. Among the companies we studied, we observed a change in values in line with Latouche’s claim. In their management practices, the companies are guided by values such as fairness, cooperation, diversity, independence, democracy, transparency, and ecological sustainability. This is exemplified by democratic ownership and decision-making structures, cooperative trade relations, a preference for local suppliers and the redistribution of surpluses. Furthermore, for these companies, profits are of reduced significance as an indicator of success. Nevertheless, some companies in our sample do still consider further company growth to be necessary. But, as the limitation of the company’s size is just one possible way in which a company can contribute to an overall reduction in economic growth, the companies bear due to their compliance with Latouche´s strategies the potential to contribute to a societal transition towards degrowth.

Freie Geister

Der große utopische Science-Fiction-Klassiker in kongenialer Neuübersetzung.

Ursula K. LeGuins ›Freie Geister‹ ist eine der bedeutendsten Utopien des 20. Jahrhunderts, in der die Systemfrage – Kommunismus, Kapitalismus oder Anarchismus? – mit aller Deutlichkeit gestellt wird. Ältere Ausgaben sind unter den Titeln ›Planet der Habenichtse‹ und ›Die Enteigneten‹ erschienen.

Freie Geister

Der einzige Ort auf dem Anarres, der durch eine Mauer von seiner Umgebung abgetrennt wird, ist der Raumhafen. Von hier aus werden die Edelmetalle, die in den Minen des Planeten abgebaut werden, einmal im Jahr zum Nachbarplaneten Urras geflogen.
Für die Herrschenden von Urras ist das anarchistische Anarres nicht mehr als eine abhängige Bergbaukolonie, die es möglichst effektiv auszubeuten gilt. Für die Bewohner von Anarres ist ihre Heimat jedoch der einzige Ort im ganzen Sonnensystem, wo sie wirklich frei sind – frei von Unterdrückung, aber auch frei von dem Zwang, künstlich erzeugte Bedürfnisse befriedigen zu müssen.
Als sich auch auf Anarres erste Herrschaftsstrukturen zu bilden beginnen, begibt sich der Physiker Shevek auf eine riskante Reise nach Urras. Er möchte in Dialog mit dortigen Wissenschaftlern treten und gerät dabei zwischen alle Fronten.

Umkämpftes Grün – Zwischen neoliberaler Stadtentwicklung und Stadtgestaltung von unten

Urbane Gärten sind aus vielen Städten nicht mehr wegzudenken. Gemeinschaftlicher Gemüseanbau wird dabei oft als rebellischer Akt der Stadtgestaltung von unten verstanden. Gleichzeitig taucht »urban gardening« immer häufiger in Stadtentwicklungsplänen und Werbebroschüren auf.

Die Beiträger_innen des Bandes liefern eine kritische Analyse grüner urbaner Aktivitäten und ihrer umkämpften und widersprüchlichen Rolle in aktuellen Prozessen der Neoliberalisierung des Städtischen.

Leseprobe (PDF)
Leseprobe (E-Paper)

The Commons: A Social Form that Allows for Degrowth and Sustainability

Abstract: This theoretical article opens with the reconstruction of a value-critical argument which claims that capitalism is a form of society that is structurally unsustainable. The reason for this is the need for ever-increasing value production which stems from the core of capitalism (the commodity form, competition, profit maximization, private production) and its internal and external limits. Based on this, the article calls for a fundamental social transformation and positions the commons as a social form that has the potential to replace the commodity form as societal foundation. Constituted by social practices (commoning) that are based on voluntariness, autonomy and needs-satisfaction, commons do not have an inbuilt growth compulsion. Therefore, the article concludes, the commons may enable humanity to deal with the question of sustainability on the basis of social structures that include the possibility of a solution.

Degrowth, Commons and Climate Justice: Ecofeminist Insights and Indigenous Political Traditions

Abstract: This paper discusses indigenous forms of conflict resolution, resource governance, asset redistribution, leadership and sharing in relation to degrowth, sustainability, commons, and ecofeminist theory as well as current environmental politics in North America. It highlights North American and global examples of traditional and new forms of “commons” which help to meet local subsistence needs and develop communities’ social, political and economic resilience in the face of climate change. Sustainably governed commons (which prevent open access by outsiders) make possible dynamic risk-reduction, addressing the shortcomings of both market and state-
oriented governance. The focus on equity and sustainability rather than growth is increasingly pressing as climate change threatens human subsistence worldwide. Indigenous traditions and leadership are central to the current political relevance of these (re-)emergent systems. Drawing on the literatures of ecological economics, political ecology, degrowth, indigenous law and politics, and ecofeminism as well as the work of Elinor Ostrom and Charlotte Hess to situate these ideas, this paper sets out a framework for assessing climate resilience from an equity standpoint, in terms of commons-readiness. From this perspective, climate justice – the local and global equity of climate change impacts and procedures – advances in parallel with the (re)establishment of sustainably – governed commons.