What changes in state power must occur for commoning to flourish as a legal form of self-provisioning and governance? What does the success of the commons imply for the future of the state as a form of governance?
My colleagues and I at the Commons Strategies Group puzzled over such questions last year and decided we needed to convene some serious minds to help shed light on them. With the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, we convened a Deep Dive workshop on February 28 through March 2, 2016, called “State Power and Commoning: Transcending a Problematic Relationship.”
Now a report that synthesizes and distills our conversations is available. The executive summary of the report is published below (and also here). The full 50-page report can be downloaded as a pdf file here.
Participants in the workshop addressed such questions as: Can commons and the state fruitfully co-exist – and if so, how? Can commoners re-imagine “the state” from a commons perspective so that its powers could be used to affirmatively support commoning and a post-capitalist, post-growth means of provisioning and governance? Can “seeing like a state,” as famously described by political scientist James C. Scott, be combined with “seeing like a commoner” and its ways of knowing, living and being? What might such a hybrid look like?
These issues are becoming more important as neoliberalism attempts to reassert the ideological supremacy of “free market” dogma. As a feasible, eco-friendly alternative, commoning is often seen as posing a symbolic or even a political and social threat. It is our hope that the report will help inaugurate a broader discussion of these issues.
Silke Helfrich and Heike Loeschmann deserve much credit for helping to organize the event, with assistance from Michel Bauwens. I wrote the report, and Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel have produced a beautiful publication and webpages. Thanks, too, to the workshop participants who shared their astute insights.