Journalist Cat Johnson recently published an interview with me on Shareable.net, the lively chronicler of new types of sharing and collaboration, especially on digital platforms and in cities. The interview is a brief survey of my thinking on the commons as a promising political strategy and governance template. Here’s an excerpt:
“We need to imagine new forms of governance,” he [Bollier] says. “It’s not as if the state is going to be rendered useless or unimportant tomorrow, but the state needs to explore new forms of governance if it’s going to keep its own legitimacy and effectiveness.”
He points to the fact that government’s incompetence and incapacity for dealing with problems, as centralized, territorial institutions, is going to become more evident.
“Just as governments charter corporations, ostensibly to serve the common good,” he says, “the government ought to be chartering the commons and providing financial assistance and legal sanction and even privileges. Because at a local, self-organized level, the commons can perform lots of tasks that governments just aren't doing well because they’re too corrupted or bought off or too centralized and incapable of dealing with diverse, distributed complexity.” He adds, “At the core, it’s a governance problem. Even liberal, constitutional democracies are not capable of solving all these problems.”
In addition to asserting a different model of humanity that can counter homo economicus, the commons, says Bollier, works on a variety of levels from our sense of knowledge and our sense of self, on up to public policy, politics, our worldview and our ethics. As he puts it, “It speaks to people’s viscera as much as their heads.”
“Essentially,” he explains, “the commons provides for more fairness, it provides for more individual freedom of participation and it provides for a sense of sufficiency for everyone without getting into the consumerist, growth forever syndrome. Part of our challenge,” he adds, “is to get beyond the market capitalism and its insistence on relentless growth.”
This interview reminded me of another interview that I gave about four years ago, to Creative Commons, which also asked me to reflect on my personal journey in discovering the commons. In that Q&A, I was asked why the commons makes sense and how it might evolve, especially in the context of digital culture. Here’s the link to that one.