Increasingly in recent years, we hear social movements call to reclaim and protect commons. Traditionally commons are associated with the shared stewardship and care for the environment on which both people and animals depend, such as lands, forests, seeds, waters, fisheries. In the face of privatisation driven by neoliberal policies, struggles continue world wide for the recognition and protection of these many commons. Perhaps none more so than for the water we drink and the air we breath.
Knowledge can also be commons. Indigenous and traditional knowledge, certainly, but more recently with the advent of digital technology we see the emergence and creation of new commons and new practices of commoning, best exemplified by the development of FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software). We see the influence of this movement in many areas from open science to open access, open design and open manufacturing, to name just a few.
Do these new collaborative modes of production, whose developments depends on the open sharing of knowledge as commons, represent the seed form of an alternative to capitalism?
While on the one hand technology offers emancipatory possibilities on the other we see the disruption of traditional industries and an expansion of the surveillance state. The world of work is rapidly changing and increasingly precarious. The sharing economy as characterised by companies like Uber is no more than an extension and re-branding of the rentier economy. It is literally driving workers into a state of precarity. Hence we must be critical, but criticism is not enough. We cannot afford to assume a reactionary position, it is time to be proactive. Working not just to protect workers and their hard won rights but to actively build alternatives and ethical enterprises.
There is no reason we cannot build a real sharing economy, with member owned cooperative enterprise at heart, that respect workers and co-create commons. Platform Cooperatives and Open Cooperatives are leading the way. Municipal governments in Bologna, Barcelona and many other cities are implementing innovative policies to support social innovation for commons based collaborative economies that place people and communities before profit. To meet the scale of the challenges we face today, progressive alliances are needed that bring together Solidarity Economy, Trade Unions, Municipal Movements, Environmentalists, Degrowth activists, Artists of all kinds and others, to share the wisdom and experience of the many to create together an inclusive and sustainable vision for our future.
Do these new commons offer a way towards a Post-Capitalist future, a way out of dead end of casino capitalism that is cannibalising our world? Can we build alliances, allied around a post-capitalist vision of a future with commons at it’s heart? Can our dreams of another world be made possible?
We have convened a Commons Space at this years 2016 World Social Forum in Montreal to dive deep and to explore these complex questions through participatory workshops, sessions, fun activities and a Post-Capitalist convergence. This is an open invitation to everyone with the passion ‘to be the change’ to join and meet at the Commons Space.