HOME
        TheInfoList






The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Characteristically, this involves a variety of informal norms and values (social practice) employed for a governance mechanism.[1] Commons can be also defined as a social practice of governing a resource not by state or market but by a community of users that self-governs the resource through institutions that it creates .[2]

Definition and modern use

The Digital Library of the Commons defines "commons" as "a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest".[3]

The term "commons" derives from the traditional English legal term for common land, which are also known as "commons", and was popularised in the modern sense as a shared resource term by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in an influential 1968 article called The Tragedy of the Commons. As Frank van Laerhoven and Elinor Ostrom have stated; "Prior to the publication of Hardin's article on the tragedy of the commons (1968), titles containing the words 'the commons', 'common pool resources', or 'common property' were very rare in the academic literature."[4]

Some texts make a distinction in usage between common ownership

The Digital Library of the Commons defines "commons" as "a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest".[3]

The term "commons" derives from the traditional English legal term for common land, which are also known as "commons", and was popularised in the modern sense as a shared resource term by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in an influential 1968 article called The Tragedy of the Commons. As Frank van Laerhoven and Elinor Ostrom have stated; "Prior to the publication of Hardin's article on the tragedy of the commons (1968), titles containing the words 'the commons', 'common pool resources', or 'common property' were very rare in the academic literature."[4]

Some texts make a distinction in usage between common ownership of the commons and collective ownership among a group of colleagues, such as in a producers' cooperative. The precision of this distinction is not always maintained.

The use of "commons" for natural resources has its roots in European intellectual history, where it referred to shared agricultural fields, grazing lands and forests that were, over a period of several hundred years, enclosed, claimed as private property for private use. In European political texts, the common wealth was the totality of the material riches of the world, such as the air, the water, the soil and the seed, all nature's bounty regarded as the inheritance of humanity as a whole, to be shared together. In this context, one may go back further, to the Roman legal category res communis, applied to things common to all to be used and enjoyed by everyone, as opposed to res publica, applied to public property managed by the government.[5]

Type

Environmental resource

The examples below illustrate types of environmental commons.

European land use

Originally in medieval England the common was an integral part of the manor, and was thus legally part of the estate in land owned by the lord of the manor, but over which certain classes of manorial tenants and others held certain rights. By extension, the term "commons" has come to be applied to other resources which a community has rights or access to. The older texts use the word "common" to denote any such right, but more modern usage is to refer to particular rights of common, and to reserve the name "common" for the land over which the rights are exercised. A person who has a right in, or over, common land jointly with another or others is called a commoner.[6]

In middle Europe, commons (relatively small-scale agriculture in, especially, southern Germany, Austria, and the alpine countries) were kept, in some parts, till the present.[7] Some studies have compared the German and English dealings with the commons between late medieval times and the agrarian reforms of the 18th and 19th centuries. The UK was quite radical in doing away with and enclosing former commons, while southwestern Germany (and the alpine countries as e.g. Switzerland) had the most advanced commons structures, and were more inclined to keep them. The Lower Rhine region took an intermediate position.[8] However, the

The term "commons" derives from the traditional English legal term for common land, which are also known as "commons", and was popularised in the modern sense as a shared resource term by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in an influential 1968 article called The Tragedy of the Commons. As Frank van Laerhoven and Elinor Ostrom have stated; "Prior to the publication of Hardin's article on the tragedy of the commons (1968), titles containing the words 'the commons', 'common pool resources', or 'common property' were very rare in the academic literature."[4]

Some texts make a distinction in usage between common ownership of the commons and collective ownership among a group of colleagues, such as in a producers' cooperative. The precision of this distinction is not always maintained.

The use of "commons" for natural resources has its roots in European intellectual history, where it referred to shared agricultural fields, grazing lands and forests that were, over a period of several hundred years, enclosed, claimed as private property for private use. In European political texts, the common wealth was the totality of the material riches of the world, such as the air, the water, the soil and the seed, all nature's bounty regarded as the inheritance of humanity as a whole, to be shared together. In this context, one may go back further, to the Roman legal category res communis, applied to things common to all to be used and enjoyed by everyone, as opposed to res publica, applied to public property managed by the government.[5]

The examples below illustrate types of environmental commons.

European land use

Originally in medieval England the common was an integral part of the Originally in medieval England the common was an integral part of the manor, and was thus legally part of the estate in land owned by the lord of the manor, but over which certain classes of manorial tenants and others held certain rights. By extension, the term "commons" has come to be applied to other resources which a community has rights or access to. The older texts use the word "common" to denote any such right, but more modern usage is to refer to particular rights of common, and to reserve the name "common" for the land over which the rights are exercised. A person who has a right in, or over, common land jointly with another or others is called a commoner.[6]

In middle Europe, commons (relatively small-scale agriculture in, especially, southern Germany, Austria, and the alpine countries) were kept, in some parts, till the present.[7] Some studies have compared the German and English dealings with the commons between late medieval tim

In middle Europe, commons (relatively small-scale agriculture in, especially, southern Germany, Austria, and the alpine countries) were kept, in some parts, till the present.[7] Some studies have compared the German and English dealings with the commons between late medieval times and the agrarian reforms of the 18th and 19th centuries. The UK was quite radical in doing away with and enclosing former commons, while southwestern Germany (and the alpine countries as e.g. Switzerland) had the most advanced commons structures, and were more inclined to keep them. The Lower Rhine region took an intermediate position.[8] However, the UK and the former dominions have till today a large amount of Crown land which often is used for community or conservation purposes.

Based on a research project by the Environmental and Cultural Conservation in Inner Asia (ECCIA) from 1992 to 1995, satellite images were used to compare the amount of land degradation due to livestock grazing in the regions of Mongolia, Russia, and China.[9] In Mongolia, where shepherds were permitted to move collectively between seasonal grazing pastures, degradation remained relatively low at approximately 9%. Comparatively, Russia and China, which mandated state-owned pastures involving immobile settlements and in some cases privatization by household, had much higher degradation, at around 75% and 33% respectively.[10] A collaborative effort on the part of Mongolians proved much more efficient in preserving grazing land.

Lobster fishery of Maine<

Widespread success of the Maine lobster industry is often attributed to the willingness of Maine's lobstermen to uphold and support lobster conservation rules. These rules include harbor territories not recognized by the state, informal trap limits, and laws imposed by the state of Maine (which are largely influenced by lobbying from lobster industry itself).[11] Essentially, the lobstermen collaborate without much government intervention to sustain their common-pool resource.

Community forests in Nepal

In the late 1980s, Nepal chose to decentralize government control over forests. Community forest programs work by giving local areas a financial stake in nearby woodlands, and thereby increasing the incentive to protect them from overuse. Local institutions regulate harvesting and selling of timber and land, and must use any profit towards community development and preservation of the forests. In twenty years, locals have noticed a visible increase in the number of trees. Community forestry may also contribute to community development in rural areas – for instance school construction, irrigation and drinking water channel construction, and road construction. Community forestry has proven conducive to democratic practices at grass roots level.[12]

Irrigation systems of New Mexico

Today, the commons are also understood within a cultural sp

Today, the commons are also understood within a cultural sphere. These commons include literature, music, arts, design, film, video, television, radio, information, software and sites of heritage. Wikipedia is an example of the production and maintenance of common goods by a contributor community in the form of encyclopedic knowledge that can be freely accessed by anyone without a central authority.[14]

Tragedy of the commons in the Wiki-Commons is avoided by community control by individual authors within the Wikipedia community.[15]

The information commons may help protect users of commons. Companies that

Tragedy of the commons in the Wiki-Commons is avoided by community control by individual authors within the Wikipedia community.[15]

The information commons may help protect users of commons. Companies that pollute the environment release information about what they are doing. The Corporate Toxics Information Project[16] and information like the Toxic 100, a list of the top 100 polluters,[17] helps people know what these corporations are doing to the environment.

Mayo Fuster Morell proposed a definition of digital commons as "information and knowledge resources that are collectively created and owned or shared between or among a community and that tend to be non-exclusive, that is, be (generally freely) available to third parties. Thus, they are oriented to favor use and reuse, rather than to exchange as a commodity. Additionally, the community of people building them can intervene in the governing of their interaction processes and of their shared resources."[18][19]

Examples of digital commons are Wikipedia, free software and open-source hardware projects.

Urban commons

In 2007, Elinor Ostrom along with her colleague Charlotte Hess, did succeed in extending the commons debate to knowledge, approaching knowledge as a complex ecosystem that operates as a common – a shared resource that is subject to social dilemmas. The focus here was on the ready availability of digital forms of knowledge and associated possibilities to store, access and share it as a common. The connection between knowledge and commons may be made through identifying typical problems associated with natural resource commons, such as congestion, overharvesting, pollution and inequities, which also apply to knowledge. Then, effective alternatives (community-based, non-private, non-state), in line with those of natural commons (involving social rules, appropriate property rights and management structures), solutions are proposed. Thus, the commons metaphor is applied to social practice around knowledge. It is in this context that the present work proceeds, discussing the creation of depositories of knowledge through the organised, voluntary contributions of scholars (the research community, itself a social common), the problems that such knowledge commons might face (such as free-riding or disappearing assets), and the protection of knowledge commons from enclosure and commodification (in the form of intellectual property legislation, patenting, licensing and overpricing).[1] At this point, it is important to note the nature of knowledge and its complex and

In 2007, Elinor Ostrom along with her colleague Charlotte Hess, did succeed in extending the commons debate to knowledge, approaching knowledge as a complex ecosystem that operates as a common – a shared resource that is subject to social dilemmas. The focus here was on the ready availability of digital forms of knowledge and associated possibilities to store, access and share it as a common. The connection between knowledge and commons may be made through identifying typical problems associated with natural resource commons, such as congestion, overharvesting, pollution and inequities, which also apply to knowledge. Then, effective alternatives (community-based, non-private, non-state), in line with those of natural commons (involving social rules, appropriate property rights and management structures), solutions are proposed. Thus, the commons metaphor is applied to social practice around knowledge. It is in this context that the present work proceeds, discussing the creation of depositories of knowledge through the organised, voluntary contributions of scholars (the research community, itself a social common), the problems that such knowledge commons might face (such as free-riding or disappearing assets), and the protection of knowledge commons from enclosure and commodification (in the form of intellectual property legislation, patenting, licensing and overpricing).[1] At this point, it is important to note the nature of knowledge and its complex and multi-layered qualities of non-rivalry and non-excludability. Unlike natural commons – which are both rival and excludable (only one person can use any one item or portion at a time and in so doing they use it up, it is consumed) and characterised by scarcity (they can be replenished but there are limits to this, such that consumption/destruction may overtake production/creation) – knowledge commons are characterised by abundance (they are non-rival and non-excludable and thus, in principle, not scarce, so not impelling competition and compelling governance). This abundance of knowledge commons has been celebrated through alternative models of knowledge production, such as Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP), and embodied in the free software movement. The CBPP model showed the power of networked, open collaboration and non-material incentives to produce better quality products (mainly software).[26]

Commoning as a process

Women have traditionally been at the forefront of struggles for commoning "as primary subjects of reproductive work". This proximity and dependence on communal natural resources has made women the most vulnerable by their privatization, and made them their most staunch defendants. Examples include: subsistence agriculture, credit associations such as tontine (money commons) and collectivizing reproductive labor. In "Caliban and the Witch",[48] Federici interprets the ascent of capitalism as a reactionary move to subvert the rising tide of communalism and to retain the basic social contract.

"Feminist Reconstructions" of the Commons

The process of commoning the material means of reproduction of human life is most promising in the struggle to "disentangle our livelihoods not only from the world market but also from the war machine and prison system." One of the main aims of the process of commoning is to create "common subjects" that are responsible to their communities. The notion of community is not understood as a "gated community", but as "a quality of relations, a principle of cooperation and responsibility to each other and the earth, the forsts, the seas, the animals.[47] In communalizing housework, one of the supporting pillars of human activity it is imperative that this sphere is "not negated but revolutionized." Communalizing housework also serves to de-naturalize it as women's labour, which has been a important part of the feminist struggle.[47]

Feminist Commons Movementsubsistence agriculture, credit associations such as tontine (money commons) and collectivizing reproductive labor. In "Caliban and the Witch",[48] Federici interprets the ascent of capitalism as a reactionary move to subvert the rising tide of communalism and to retain the basic social contract.

"Feminist Reconstructions" of the Commons

Abortion and Birth ControlAs reproductive rights over unwanted pregnancies have been denied in many countries for many years, several resistance groups using diverse commoning strategies in order to provide women safe and affordable abortion. Care, knowledge, pills have been made commons against abortion restriction. In New York, U.S., the group Haven Coalition[49] volunteer provide pre and post abortion care for people who have to travel for abortion which is considered illegal in their places of origins, and with New York Abortion Access Fund,[50] they are able to provide them with medical and financial assistance.[51] Underground networks outside male-dominant medical service establishments are where women's networks oversee the abortion and assist each other physically or emotionally by sharing the knowledge of herbalism or home abortion. These underground groups operate under codenames like Jane Collective in Chicago or Renata[52] in Arizona. Some groups like Women on Waves from Netherlands use international waters to conduct abortion. Also, in Italy, Obiezione Respinta movement[53] collaboratively map spaces related to birth control such as pharmacies, consultors, hospitals, etc., through which users share their knowledge and experience of the place and provide access to information that is difficult to obtain.

Historical land commons movements

Contemporary commons movements