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P2P Revolution and Commons Phase Transition

P2P Revolution and Commons Phase Transition

P2P Revolution and Commons Phase Transition

At the P2P Foundation, we don’t use the moniker ‘revolution’ with much frequency, preferring the concept of phase transition.

In this article, we would like to elucidate the relation between the two concepts.

In my experience, revolution is used in two quite different senses; in a generic sense, it just means a ‘big change’, like for example when we speak about the Industrial Revolution, this was a long and drawn out process, with many aspects and it would be really difficult to identify with one particular event. Yet at the same time, there is clearly a time when industrial changes emerged in a mostly agrarian context, and a time when it is the industrial processes and forms of organisation which are dominant, and the agrarian aspects subsumed under that domination. Clearly, between these two moments, a ‘phase transition’ has occurred.

Revolution is also used in a much more narrow fashion, which usually refers to a momentous series of concrete events, in which the very organisation of power in society changed fundamentally, leading to a wholesale replacement of human personnel, a new different balance of power between social classes, and the like. Paradigmatic examples would be the French and Russian revolutions.

Both types of revolutions occur throughout history, but for many people, at least for those that live more comfortably, the second notion is less attractive. Indeed, it is most often associated with violence, often directed against the very ‘leaders’ of the first phases of such revolutions, and to boot, usually leads to counter-revolutions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rebel City of the Commons, Part II

Rebel City of the Commons, Part II

This is the second installment of a two-part series on global rebel cities. Read the first part here.

Rebel City is a need: both as a narrative and as a practice of collective fixing in the urban space. Rebel City is desirable: as a form of disobedience that defies states, legal frameworks, supranations or markets. Rebel City dialogues with the global “outside,” that is, with social movements and citizen resistance.

But disobedient rebellion must also navigate a fine line. The combative tone for seducing the “outside” also needs to be friendly and welcoming for all citizens. To invoke the “inside” and governmental spheres, the storytelling of these Rebel Cities must be rounded: free cities, participatory cities, cities of the common good. Additionally, the new storytelling must be able to snatch the paradigm of collaborative economy from the large international companies that currently control it.

On September 4 in Barcelona, the disobedient rebellion was present in speeches given by the new grassroots mayors of Spain. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau pointed out that “European states have disappointed citizens,” but “here we are the cities to [make] the alternative.” The meeting was the first step of a new inter-municipal network of Cities of the Common Good. But what would be a City of the Commons?

On the one hand, the Rebel City of the Commons must recognize and protect the citizen spaces that produce the commons: social centers, self-managed spaces, gardening networks, peer-to-peer exchange networks, etc. Public space, which citizenship transforms into a lively, democratic and open exchange, is both the metaphor and the tool for participation. On the other hand, the Rebel City of the Commons must go further, building tools, copyleft repositories and open participatory platforms, replicable by cities across the world. Digital structures must also shift to public space the open source spirit of open government.

 

– See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/rebel-city-commons-part-ii#sthash.NoBQqXz4.dpuf

Who May Use the King’s Forest? The Meaning of Magna Carta, Commons and Law in Our Time

Who May Use the King’s Forest? The Meaning of Magna Carta, Commons and Law in Our Time

The relationship between law and the commons is very much on my mind these days.  I recently posted a four-part serialization of my strategy memo, “Reinventing Law for the Commons.”  The following public talk, which I gave at the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Berlin on September 8, is a kind of companion piece.  The theme: this year’s celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and its significance for commoners today.

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight about the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and the significance of law for the commons.  It’s pretty amazing that anyone is still celebrating something that happened eight centuries ago!   Besides our memory of this event, I think it is so interesting what we have chosen to remember about this history, and what we have forgotten.

This anniversary is essentially about the signing of peace treaty on the fields of Runnymede, England, in 1215.  The treaty settled a bloody civil war between the much-despised King John and his rebellious barons eight centuries ago.  What was intended as an armistice was soon regarded as a larger canonical statement about the proper structure of governance.  Amidst a lot of archaic language about medieval ways of life, Magna Carta is now seen as a landmark statement about the limited powers of the sovereign, and the rights and liberties of ordinary people.

The King’s acceptance of Magna Carta after a long civil war seems unbelievably distant and almost forgettable.  How could it have anything to do with us moderns?  I think its durability and resonance have to do with our wariness about concentrated power, especially of the sovereign.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Property Rights, Inequality and Commons

Property Rights, Inequality and Commons

I recently spoke at a conference, “Property and Inequality in the 21st Century,” hosted by The Common Core of European Private Law, an annual gathering of legal scholars, mostly from Europe.  They had asked me how the commons might be a force for reducing inequality.  Below are my remarks, “The Commons as a Tool for Sharing the Wealth.”  The conference was held at the University of Göteborg, Sweden, on June 12-13, 2015.

Thank you for inviting me to speak today about the relationship between property law and inequality – a topic that receives far too little attention.  This should not be surprising.  Now that free-market ideology has become the default worldview and political consensus around the world, private property is seen as synonymous with freedom, economic growth and human progress.

Oh yes, there is this nasty side issue known as inequality.  Malcontents like the Occupy movement and renegade economists like Thomas Pikketty have brought this problem to the fore after years of neglect.  Their success has been quite an achievement because for years the very existence of inequality has been portrayed as an accident, an aberration, a mysterious and shadowy guest at the grand banquet of human progress.

I wish to argue that hunger, poverty, inadequate education and medical care, and assaults on human dignity and human rights, are not bugs in the system.  They arefeatures.  Indeed, market ideologues often argue that such deprivations are a necessary incentive to human enterprise and economic growth; poverty is supposedly needed to spur people to escape through the work ethic and entrepreneurialism.

Property rights lie at the heart of this dynamic because they are a vital tool for defining and patrolling the boundaries of private wealth, and for justifying the inevitably unequal outcomes.  So it’s important that we focus on the role of property rights in producing social inequality – without ignoring the many other forces, including social practice, culture and politics, that also play important roles.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There’s Nothing Heroic About Stealing Water From the Commons

There’s Nothing Heroic About Stealing Water From the Commons

It’s not every day that someone who steals water from the commons for private use on his large estate gains folk hero status in the sustainability movement. But thanks to a few irresponsible members of the alternative press, and a well-earned reputation in several states for having complex rainwater catchment regulations, that’s what happened to Gary Harrington. For over a decade, Harrington diverted massive, river-sized runoff water from snow and rainfall into large reservoirs on his land. That water was part of a watershed, and was supposed to supply the town of Medford, Oregon. When, after repeated attempts to negotiate with him, the state finally prosecuted Harrington, he painted himself as a folk hero and a rebel against government overreach.

The libertarian alternative media, with their connections to the sustainability and self-sufficiency movements, drank the story up like water. They ran pieces saying things like “a rural Oregon man was slapped with fines for collecting rain water on his own property”; referred to the “simple act of collecting rainwater on his own property,” and lamented that, in this era of government control, we aren’t even allowed to collect rainwater for personal use. The articles sounded alarmist, sanctimonious tones about self-sufficiency and the dangers of Big Brother, how it’s now illegal to collect rainwater on your own property, how the government claims to own even the rain.

None of them were remotely true. As the Oregon Water Resources Department stated in a press release dated July 29, 2012, and reprinted at Snopes.com, it’s perfectly legal in Oregon to collect rainwater for personal use. You can collect it in barrels or tarps or off your own roof. What you can’t do is alter or collect from flowing bodies of water.

– See more at: http://www.occupy.com/article/there’s-nothing-heroic-about-stealing-water-commons#sthash.v9NIgGmF.dpuf

 

 

In Defense of the Commons

In Defense of the Commons

“Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor.”

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation. 1944. (p. 35)         

Shared access, reliance, use and governance of natural resources is a common form of tenure in the world, North and South, rural and urban.  The specific rules and institutions that govern common property are very diverse, developed by communities groups on their own direct experience and reflecting their priorities. Where well managed, such systems have proven capable of preserving the long term health of the resources and sustained benefits to the community relying on them.  Common spaces are under increasing threat – their resources are grabbed for private interests, mined and degraded for short term gains. A critical factor in this is the weakening of common property management systems, undermined as the paradigms of privatisation and market commodification have dominated policy development. Networks and movements of the poor around the world are reacting to the destruction of their natural resources, and standing up in defence of the commons and the common property systems which sustain them.  This article identifies some of the threats to the commons and highlights the resistance of local people.    


Imagen 1

The commons refer to forms of wealth that belong to all of us and that must be actively protected and managed for the good of all.  Commons can be natural, such as air, water, land, forests and biodiversity; social and institutional, such as public goods, spaces and services; political, such as collectively held notions of democracy, justice and governance; and intellectual and cultural, such as general knowledge, everyday technology, shared music and scientific truths.

– See more at: http://commonstransition.org/in-defense-of-the-commons/#sthash.M2tM7XzW.dpuf

 

The Newly Launched Commons Transition Plan

The Newly Launched Commons Transition Plan

The P2P Foundation recently launched a new website, the Commons Transition Platform,  as a central repository for policy ideas that help promote a wide variety of commons and peer-to-peer dynamics.  The site represents a new, more coordinated stage of activism in this area – collecting practical policy proposals for legally authorizing and encouraging the creation of new commons.

The website is a database of “practical experiences and policy proposals aimed toward achieving a more humane and environmentally grounded mode of societal organization.”  The idea is to begin to outline how policies could bring about and support a commons-based civil society, with a special focus on how collaborative stewardship of shared resources can be achieved.

The P2P Foundation has stated its aspirations for the new initiative this way:

With the Commons Transition Plan as a comparative document, we intend to organize workshops and dialogues to see how other commons locales, countries, language-communities but also cities and regions, can translate their experiences, needs and demands into policy proposals. The Plan is not an imposition nor is it a prescription, but something that is intended as a stimulus for discussion and independent crafting of more specific commons-oriented policy proposals that respond to the realities and exigencies of different contexts and locales. This project therefore, is itself a commons, open to all contributions, and intended for the benefit of all who need it.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Hope For Imagining a World Beyond Corporate Control | On the Commons

Hope For Imagining a World Beyond Corporate Control | On the Commons.

The commons is not just a battlefield between corporate predators and those who resist them – it is also a source of hope for those willing to imagine a world beyond capitalism. It represents a space between the private market and the political state in which humanity can control and democratically root our common wealth. Both the market and the state have proved inadequate for this purpose. In different ways, they have both led to a centralization of power and decision-making. Both private monopolies and state bureaucracies have proved incapable of maintaining the ecological health of the commons or managing the fair and equitable distribution of its benefits.

The conservative ecologist Garrett Hardin’s belief that the commons is facing a tragedy was based on the notion that individual self-interest in exploiting common resources was undercutting the overall health of those limited resources. Hardin maintained that individual self-interest trumps any more thoughtful notion of preserving resources for future use. External restraints needed to be imposed. To prove his point, Hardin used the example of the individual herder taking more than their share of pastureland. It assumes a human behavior that is all too familiar to those who have seen the global fishery depleted and seen watersheds destroyed by those hungry for land to grow crops.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Economics As If Future Generations Mattered | On the Commons

Economics As If Future Generations Mattered | On the Commons.

By Lieven Soete under a CC license

We have turned a corner on climate change— a wrong turn– and it is happening more rapidly than we have predicted. Climate change is already disrupting society, ecosystems, and national economies. We have altered so much of our Earth that we now threaten our own survival.

We know the catastrophic risks we are passing onto future generations and we wonder, with anxiety and grief, what will become of our planet. We ask ourselves, “what can I do?”.

One of the key barriers to taking action on the paramount issues of our time is that these problems are the end result of entrenched cultural, economic and social systems. The message that solutions to climate change and environmental degradation is up to the individual directly conflicts with what people are witnessing: the health and well-being of their bodies and their communities coming a distant second to powerful economic interests.

Current economic calculations do not recognize the full cost to the Commons – the cultural and natural heritage we share that is the foundation of our economy

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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