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Percorso di lettura: the commons / i beni comuni


In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been an increasing interest in the commons and a growing number of books and articles on the subject, as a response to the generalised privatization/enclosure of resources and public spaces in the North and in the South. The revival of interest for the commons is positive, but it is not without risks: the difference between the commons and the common good of mankind often disappears, as in the books written by most Third World or neo-global movement authors who deal with neoliberal globalisation much more than with the commons: see as an example the recent work of Francois Houtart, the Belgian scholar (B. Daiber and F. Houtart [eds], A Postcapitalist Paradigm: The Common Good of Humanity, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Brussels, 2012).

Another risk derives from the extension of the commons from the natural commons to the digital, cultural and social commons. This extension is legitimate, but it has been pushed extremely far, especially with regard to the digital commons, to the point of undermining the relevance of natural commons as though nature were not the foundation of life on earth. Books on digital commons come mainly from the United States, but the debate is taking place everywhere. On this point I will make just one example: that of the Commons Strategy Group, founded in 2010 by four activists and researchers, Michel Bauwens, Beatriz Busaniche, David Bollier and Silke Helfrich.

In the literature on cultural commons knowledge is discussed the most, but is often confused and identified with information coming from the internet. The book I want to mention here as an example is Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom (eds), Understanding Knowledge As a Common: From Theory to Practice, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2007. Many essays included in this book are written by experts of digital commons, such as David Bollier (cited above) and James Boyle (see also J. Boyle’s article ‘The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain’, in Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 66, 2003, pp. 33–74).

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