The following remarks are excerpted from a talk that I gave at the Vis Green Academy in Croatia, on August 25, dealing with the commons and its potential to remake cities and city life. My interview on the commons (in Croatian translation) with the Croatian environmental magazine H-Alter.org can be found here.
I have been asked to address what the commons might have to say about urban spaces and urban life. The short answer is, a lot!
First, the language of the commons helps us assert a moral entitlement to public spaces again. It lets us challenge the unholy alliance of politicians, developers and professional architects and planners, and insist that city spaces serve our needs as ordinary people. This means, first of all, that commercial considerations cannot crowd out vital common purposes – as we see when the market or authoritarians take over.
I like how Pulska Grupa, a group of architects and urban planners from Pula, Croatia, put it in their Kommunal Urbanism Social Charter. They write:
“We imagine city as a collective space which belongs to all those who live in it, who have the right to find there the conditions for their political, social, economic and ecological fulfillment at the same time assuming duties of solidarity. This concept of the city is blocked by capitalist dialectic based on difference in public and private good. From these two poles State and Market emerge as the only two subjects. We want to escape this dialectic, not to focus on eventually “third subject,” but on a group of collective subjectivities and the commons that they produce.”