This paper by David Bollier, published alongside three others, is one of many proposals for a systemic alternative we have published or will be publishing here at the Next System Project. You can read it below, or download the PDF. We have commissioned these papers in order to facilitate an informed and comprehensive discussion of “new systems,” and as part of this effort we have also created a comparative framework which provides a basis for evaluating system proposals according to a common set of criteria.

I believe the commons—at once a paradigm, a discourse, an ethic, and a set of social practices—holds great promise in transcending this conundrum. More than a political philosophy or policy agenda, the commons is an active, living process. It is less a noun than a verb because it is primarily about the social practices of commoning—acts of mutual support, conflict, negotiation, communication and experimentation that are needed to create systems to manage shared resources. This process blends production (self provisioning), governance, culture, and personal interests into one integrated system.

This essay provides a brisk overview of the commons, commoning, and their great potential in helping build a new society. I will explain the theory of change that animates many commoners, especially as they attempt to tame capitalist markets, become stewards of natural systems, and mutualize the benefits of shared resources. The following pages describe a commons-based critique of the neoliberal economy and polity; a vision of how the commons can bring about a more ecologically sustainable, humane society; the major economic and political changes that commoners seek; and the principal means for pursuing them.

Finally, I will look speculatively at some implications of a commons-centric society for the market/state alliance that now constitutes “the system.” How would a world of commons provisioning and governance change the polity? How could it address the interconnected pathologies of relentless economic growth, concentrated corporate power, consumerism, unsustainable debt, and cascading ecological destruction?

Goals of the Commons Movement

Before introducing the commons more systematically, let me just state clearly what the commons movement seeks to achieve. Commoners are focused on reclaiming their “common wealth,” in both the material and political sense. They want to roll back the pervasive privatization and marketization of their shared resources—from land and water to knowledge and urban spaces—and reassert greater participatory control over those resources and community life. They wish to make certain resources inalienable—protected from sale on the market and conserved for future generations. This project—to reverse market enclosures and reinvent the commons—seeks to achieve what state regulation has generally failed to achieve: effective social control of abusive, unsustainable market behavior.

Although the terms of engagement vary, countless activist communities around the world are playing out this drama of resistance to the neoliberal economy and the creation of commons-based alternatives. The essential similarity of the resistance and commoning are not always apparent because the conflicts occur at many levels (i.e., local, region, national, and transnational); in diverse resource-domains; and with self-descriptions that may or may not use the commons language. Yet, there is a shared dissent from the grand narrative of free-market ideology and its near-theological belief in “self-made” individualism, expansive private property rights, constant economic growth, government deregulation, capital-driven technological innovation, and consumerism. Commoners see this belief system as the engine of the extractive market economy, a system that is destroying ecosystems, undermining democracy, disempowering communities, and dispossessing individuals, especially the poor and vulnerable.

But rather than focus on conventional political venues, which tend to be structurally rigged against systemic change, commoners are more focused on creating their own alternative systems outside of the market and state. It is not as if they have abandoned conventional politics and regulation as vehicles for self-defense, or progressive change; it’s just that they recognize the inherent limits of electoral politics and policy-driven solutions, at a time when these channels are so corrupted. Even in the best circumstances, conventional policy systems tend to be legalistic, expensive, expert-driven, bureaucratically inflexible, and politically corruptible, which make them a hostile vehicle for serious change “from the bottom.”

Even in the best circumstances, conventional policy systems tend to be legalistic, expensive, expert-driven, bureaucratically inflexible, and politically corruptible, which make them a hostile vehicle for serious change “from the bottom.”

Read the article, series, and engage in New Learning at >>> Source: Commoning as a Transformative Social Paradigm – The Next System Project