My Books

Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons

The biggest “tragedy of the commons” is the misconception that commons are failures — relics from another era rendered unnecessary by the Market and State. Think Like a Commoner dispels such prejudices by explaining the rich history and promising future of the commons — an ageless paradigm of cooperation and fairness that is re-making our world. With graceful prose and dozens of fascinating examples, David Bollier describes the quiet revolution that is pioneering practical new forms of self-governance and production controlled by people themselves. Think Like a Commoner explains how the commons:

  • Is an exploding field of DIY innovation ranging from Wikipedia and seed-sharing to community forests and collaborative consumption, and beyond;
  • Challenges the standard narrative of market economics by explaining how cooperation generates significant value and human fulfillment; and
  • Provides a framework of law and social action that can help us move beyond the pathologies of neoliberal capitalism.

We have a choice: Ignore the commons and suffer the ongoing private plunder of our common wealth. Or Think Like a Commoner and learn how to rebuild our society and reclaim our shared inheritance. This accessible, comprehensive introduction to the commons will surprise and enlighten you, and provoke you to action.

The Wealth of the Commons: A World Beyond Market and State

The book features 73 essays by a remarkable roster of activists, academics and project leaders from around the world.  Co-edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, the book chronicles many ongoing struggles against the private commoditization of shared resources – while documenting the immense generative power of the commons. The Wealth of the Commons explains how millions of commoners are defending their forests and fisheries, reinventing local food systems, organizing productive online communities, reclaiming public spaces, improving environmental stewardship and re-imagining the very meaning of “progress” and governance.  Sections focus on "The Commons as a New Paradigm"; "Capitalism, Enclosure and Resistance"; "Commoning -- A Social Innovation for Our Time"; "Knowledge Commons for Social Change"; and "Envisioning a COmmons-Based Policy and Production Framework."

Green Governance: Ecological Survival, Human Rights and the Law of the Commons

Green Governance calls for a paradigm shift in how we manage natural resources, challenging the archaic paradigms that revolve around conventional notions of economics, national sovereignty and international law.  Instead, we need to develop broader ideas of economics and human rights based on commons-based governance.  Going beyond speculative abstractions, the book proposes a new architecture of environmental law and public policy that is as practical as it is theoretically sound.

Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own

"Viral Spiral" is a term to describe the almost-magical process by which Internet users come together to build digital tools and share content on self-created online commons. Using free software, Creative Commons licenses and their own imaginations, ordinary people have invented an astonishing online social order and economy that is free of customary commercial constraints - and robust enough to challenge traditional institutions. This new order cam be seem in thousands of collaborative websites and archives, the blogosphere, social networking sites, Wikipedia, craigslist, remix music and video mashups, and a flood of innovations in open education, open science and open business models. Viral Spiral is the first comprehensive history of the attempt by a global brigade of techies, lawyers, artists, and many others to create a digital republic committed to freedom and innovation.

 

Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture

Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture" (John Wiley & Sons, February 2005) One of the most serious threats to creativity, free speech and democratic culture is coming from an explosive expansion of copyright law, trademark law and related fields such as "publicity rights" and Internet policies. The scope of this threat is often not seen because it occurs in such isolated ways: McDonald's attacking McVegan, McSushi and other food establishments that dare to use the prefix "Mc" in their name; Mattel threatening lawsuits against unauthorized depictions of Barbie dolls on the Web; the Disney Company demanding that hand-painted images of Mickey and Goofy be removed from day care center walls. The propertization of creativity and culture has reached such extremes that a tennis ball manufacturer has won a trademark on the "smell of freshly cut grass" as used on tennis balls, the Ralph Lauren fashion house has sued to prevent the U.S. Polo Association from using the word "polo," and a prominent yoga instructor has claimed a copyright in a series of yoga postures. Learn how "brand-name bullies" are abusing intellectual property law to lock up culture and destroy the cultural commons.

 

Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth

Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth Published by Routledge in May 2002, this book describes the dozens of commons in American life that are being rapidly privatized and commercialized. The commons consists of public assets and social management systems. They include public lands and the natural environment, the electromagnetic spectrum, government databases and research, the Internet, academic research and resources, the genetic structures of life, and shared cultural spaces, among many others. The book also outlines various strategies -- political, cultural, and social -- for reclaiming the American commons.

 

Ready to Share: Fashion and Ownership of Creativity

Ready to Share: Fashion and the Ownership of Creativity, edited by David Bollier and Laurie Racine
(Lear Center Press, 2006)

More than any other industry, fashion treats a far larger portion of its creative output as a commons – shared resources that can be freely reused and transformed by other creators. In some ways, the history of fashion is the simultaneously whimsical and serious story of an industry that continues to grow and prosper via Sir Isaac Newton’s maxim, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." This book draws together several essays and the proceedings of the Norman Lear Center's 2005 conference, Ready to Share: Fashion and the Ownership of Creativity."

Sophisticated Sabotage: The Intellectual Games Used to Subvert Responsible Regulation

by Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro and David Bollier  Environmental Law Institute, 2004. Drawing upon dozens of law review articles, this book explains in rigorous detail how regulated industries exploit cost-benefit analysis, risk assessment and other contrived quantitative models to avoid health, safety and environmental regulation. An excellent explanation of how economics has overwhelmed law and thwarted government action by using contrived analytic models. Valuable for legislators, public policy analysts, journalists, law scholars and students.

Aiming Higher: 25 Stories of How Companies Prosper by Combining Sound Management and Social Vision.

AMACOM, 1996.  Profiles of 25 individuals and companies that have creatively combined traditional business objectives with pro-active social concern in such areas as worker empowerment, workforce diversity, AIDS education, environmental protection, mortgage and small business lending, retailing to low-income consumers, and community assistance. Translations made in Chinese, Japanese and Polish.

Crusaders & Criminals, Victims & Visionaries: Historic Encounters Between Connecticut Citizens and the United States Supreme Court

Connecticut Attorney General, 1986. A popularized constitutional history of thirty-one major Connecticut cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court over the past 200 years. Book is widely used in Connecticut high schools.