After a week at the beach, I'm back at my desk and tracking all things commons. --DB
A recent piece by social anthropologist Mariya Ivancheva of Central European University in Sofia reminds us that the political and culture context of the commons matters a great deal in how we think about it – much more than we might imagine. Her piece appeared at OpenDemocracy and was excerpted by Michel Bauwens at the P2P Foundation blog.
Ivancheva notes how the commons is experiencing a big surge in western Europe, especially in Italy, but she stresses that the history of Bulgaria is quite different from that of western Europe. Western European commoners have fought the privatization of public resources such as water (Italy), cultural works (the ACTA treaty) and housing (Spain and France). While eastern Europeans have also protested various acts of privatization, many of them favor the commons in some respects while viewing private property and (capitalist) economic development more favorably. She writes:
For the majority of people who grew up imbued with neoliberal ideology nurtured by anti-communist and anti-communal narratives – hegemonic public discourse in east-central Europe since 1989 – the idea of “the commons” does not make much sense. Many prefer an opt-in and opt-out strategy: they stand against the privatization of nature and for the privatization of industry and services; against the pollution of water and soil, but for the private property and “management” thereof; against the cutting of funds in the education sector, but for “efficiency” and individual survival by competition within the educational and job sector.
At the same time, the debates in the public forums surrounding the anti-Forestry Act protests [opposing ski-tourism facilities on public land] made clear the elite-driven public they attracted. The discourse is centered on preserving individual liberty and urges people to choose their struggles selectively (even when undergoing urgent political developments). This became even more problematic once you added in the manifest feeling of entitlement that people with upper social and significant geographical mobility demonstrated. As the author of one manifesto that became famous among protesters claimed, “We are against the limitation of the possibilities of development.”