Why commons?

We focus on commons because it is becoming increasingly clear that neither markets nor states are able to offer solutions to the myriad of problems caused by the multiple crises we face today. In this context, discussions of – and social movements for – commons are increasingly relevant.

Commons can be understood as social systems in which resources are shared by a community of users/producers, who also define the modes of use and production, distribution and circulation of these resources through democratic and horizontal forms of governance.

Commons are not utopias. They exist in a relationship of tension, both internal and, more significantly, vis-à-vis capital and states. In fact there are many alternative conceptualisations of commons – some complementary, others competing. Most starkly, for some thinkers, commons offer the promise of a ‘fix’ for capitalism; for others, us included, commons – and commoning, the activity that sustains them – are the foundation of a post-capitalist future.

Commons then are likely to be a key focus of social antagonism over this century and hence an important area of study and action.