Belgian Greens Explore a Commons Agenda

The Greens in Belgium have been taking a serious look at the potential of the commons to transform their political agenda.  Last week, a thoughtful 60-page report on a one-day symposium on the commons, "The Commons:  (Co)Managing Commonly Owned Resources" (pdf file), was released.  It describes the highlights of a March 9, 2012, event organized by the Green European Foundation in cooperation with the Belgian Green foundations Oikos and Etopia.  An overview of the symposium is available here.  The full report is here. My previous blog post on this event is here.

The report brings together a number of papers presented at the symposium (including mine).  Here is the contents page:


Conceptual Clarification

The Commons:  DNA of a Revival of Policy Culture (David Bollier)

Science:  The Commons and Knowledge (Valerie Peugeot)

Nature for All, and By All:  The Common Resources of Environmental Infrastructure (Pablo Servigne)

Constructing a New System:  Collectively Produced Common Resources (Maarten Roels)

Reclaiming Finance and the Economy:  Economic Commons (Arnaud Zacharie)

Sharing without Owning:  Genetic Heritage as a Common Resource (Tom Dedeurwaerdere)

Conclusion:  The Commons and Reinventing Prosperity (Tom Dedeurwaerdere and Isabelle Cassiers)

The report sees the commons as:

"a vocabulary for re-igniting our imaginations, a means of finding a successful path to an ecological and social transformation. These are neither private goods, exchanged on the market and subjugated only to the logic of individual profit making, nor public goods produced by the state. The Commons drive a different approach. They exist thanks to the will of communities that organise themselves to manage collectively a resource in order to guarantee the sustainable access to all, at times in connection with the market, at times withthe state and at times with the two. Think of water, forests, air, public transport, languages, knowledge, genetics, the web, currencies etc."

The report introduction explains the appeal of the commons as a way to surmount our current political and policy crises:

The financial and economic crisis brought both the markets and the nation states into a deep systemic crisis. The congress started from the premise that part of the solution to these crises will be found outside these systems and that the commons offer very promising prospects for developing new forms of partnerships between people, outside the usual borders of the market and even the state. The commons can contribute to establishing a progressive, forward looking green economy and can constitute a new source of political innovation, as they develop new concepts of cooperation, production and ownership.

Of course, the Belgian Greens’ explorations of the commons are still quite provisional.  It is unclear, for example, how the commons wld or could become part of its existing “Green New Deal” agenda, which does not necessarily turn away from the goal of unfettered economic growth as the solution to poverty and inequality.  Still, it is a welcome sign that some Greens are giving the commons a serious look.