On his podcast show Levevei, Norwegian host James Alexander Arnfinsen interviews me for about 49 minutes, on Episode 106 of his podcast show. It's called “The commons as an approach to governance, sustainable resource management and social well-being.” The show was recently re-posted by Resilience, a website hosted by the Post-Carbon Institute.
Arnfinsen's interview with me covers a wide variety of commons-related topics. He's a host who clearly cares about the commons and who has done some homework on it. Arnfinsen helpfully provides a running abstract of the interview on the webpage for the podcast. Here’s his summary of the first third of the interview:
(2:00) David starts of by sharing his own story on how he became interested in the commons, and he points to the advent of the internet and the disillusionment with neoliberalism as two important factors that inspired him to research this particular field. For him it was clear that the commons paradigm was a viable solution to resource management and governance, while also being a way for people to co-create and self-organize the economic and social structures that are needed in a thriving and living community (as opposed to either top-down government or market driven policies).
(7:08) David then gives a short explanation of what the commons approach actually entails, although it’s not so easy to define the concept in a clear cut way. Nevertheless, some of the most salient and recognizable features are that it’s a way to manage resources in a way which is fair and equitable to everyone, while also being sustainable. Another important characteristic is that it’s often locally specific and contextualized and that it often emerges from vernacular culture. For instance, in Hawaii some surfers have created a commons that manages who can access certain waves (the resource in this case being the wave).
(10:20) We then discuss some fundamental questions related to human nature; are we by nature self serving individuals or is there some kind of “basic sanity” or “basic goodness” in our overall makeup? David suggests that from a historical perspective there is much evidence to prove that the standard model of homo economicus is flawed. Countless examples suggest that cooperation and care for others is an important part of human culture and that often self interest and common interests are aligned and not opposed. Maybe the dichotomy between altruism and selfishness is somewhat artificial?
(13:30) Another theme we explore is to what extent the advent of the commons, or rather, the rediscovery of the commons, is a form of devolution; do we have to go backwards, in a sense, to a more traditional way of governance? It seems that a commons approach was inherent in many traditional societies before modernity and liberalism commodified natural resources and made the market into the prime actant. So what is it that we have to learn from pre-modernity? Which values are maybe lost or overshadowed in the high pacing, individualistic and capitalistic oriented societies in the 21st century?
In a bit of synchronicity, I just learned today that an audio version of my book, Think Like a Commoner, has been released. It’s narrated by David Skulski, a Canadian reader with a wonderfully resonant voice. At 6 hours and 1 minute, the recording can be bought from either Post Hypnotic Press, a Canadian audiobook company, or Audible.