My Books

Free, Fair and Alive

The power of the commons as a free, fair system of provisioning and governance beyond capitalism, socialism, and other -isms.

An expansive, thorough, and deeply thoughtful guide to a possible future politics.

— Raj Patel, author, The Value of Nothing and Stuffed and Starved

A truly exciting glimpse into what the world after this one might look like.

— Bill McKibben, author, Falter and founder, 350.org

FROM COHOUSING and agroecology to fisheries and open-source everything, people around the world are increasingly turning to “commoning” to emancipate themselves from a predatory market-state system. Free, Fair, and Alive presents a foundational rethinking of the commons — the self-organized

social system that humans have used for millennia to meet their needs. It offers a compel- ling vision of a future beyond the dead-end binary of capitalism versus socialism that has

almost brought the world to its knees. Authored by two leading commons activists, this guide is a penetrating cultural critique,

table-pounding political treatise, and practical playbook. Highly readable and full of color- ful stories, coverage includes:

• Internal dynamics of commoning • How the commons worldview opens up new possibilities for change • The role of language in reorienting our perceptions and political strategies • Seeing the potential of commoning everywhere.

Written for a popular, activist-minded audience, Free, Fair, and Alive presents a compel- ling narrative: that we can be free and creative people, govern ourselves through fair and

accountable institutions, and experience the aliveness of authentic human presence.

An inspiring treatise for our troubled times.

— J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron, and Stephen Healy, authors, Take Back the Economy

A handbook for tackling seemingly intractable problems.

— Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki

The Great Awakening

Patterns of Commoning

In more than fifty original essays, Patterns of Commoning explores the inner complexities of the commons, a timeless social paradigm. The book surveys dozens of fascinating, inspiring commons around the world, from alternative currencies and open design and manufacturing, to centuries-old community forests and co-learning commons—and dozens of others. Margaret Thatcher once championed neoliberal capitalism with the harsh ultimatum, “There is no alternative!” Patterns of Commoning shows in vivid detail that there are plenty of alternatives! We need only understand the robust power of commoning.

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.