In a variation on my last post, on the commons in South East Europe, it seems apt to mention another regional history of the commons, in Italy. This history was written by Ugo Mattei in 2014 as a chapter in a book, Global Activism: Art and Conflict in the 21st Century, edited by Peter Weibel (and published by ZKM/Center for Art Media Karlsruhe, in Germany, and MIT Press in the US).
Mattei is the noted international law scholar, lawyer and activist who has been at the center of some of the most significant commons initiatives in Italy. His chapter is a welcome synthesis of how the commons discourse in Italy arose from the misty-eyed imagination of a few far-sighted legal commoners, to become a rally cry in critical fights against the privatization of water, the Teatro Valley theater in Rome, and other cherished shared wealth. The concept of the commons has since gone mainstream in Italian political culture, animating new initiatives and providing an indispensable vocabulary for fighting neoliberal capitalist policies.
Ugo’s piece is called “Institutionalizing the Commons: An Italian Primer.” (PDF file) In it, he describes the history of the commons in Italy as “a unique experiment in transforming indignation into new institutions of the commons,” adding, “perhaps this praxis ‘Italian style’ could become an example for a global strategy.”