Free, Fair and Alive

The insurgent power of the commons
David Bollier / Silke Helfrich

1 Review

I'm currently reading Free, Fair and Alive and absolutely loving it.

Partly for me as it's drawing threads between topics of great interest to me - commons, complexity science, commons-public partnerships, digital commons, patterns, it's even ticked my wiki box.

It's also a very practical manifesto for political / social organising. I really like this about it. Its feel like a guidebook to (one form of) Anti-capitalism.

2 Discussion

2.1 How does it relate to Ostrom / Governing the Commons?

Not a reinterpretation - but a shifted orientation, yes. Subtitle of FFA is "the insurgent power of the commons". Ostrom is certainly not insurgent! Somewhat propertarian in her basic framing, akin to 'Austrian' economics (Hayek etc). Whereas FFA is counter-enclosure, counter-extractivism, post-propertarian. Hence common-ING as its pivot, the radical, situated practice, rather than commonS, the co-optable, abstract, political-economic form.

– @mikehales -

3 Raw notes

See the backlinks - I've probably copied most of the quotes into separate pages on a particular topic.

3.1 Part I: The Commons as a Transformative Perspective

Page 14 [2021-05-14 Fri 05:28]: What we really need today is creative experimentation and the courage to initiate new patterns of action. We need to learn how to identify patterns of cultural life that can bring about change, notwithstanding the immense power of capital.

Page 15 [2021-05-14 Fri 05:33]: going beyond” the nation-state doesn’t mean “without the nation-state.” It means that we must seriously alter state power by introducing new operational logics and institutional players.

Page 16 [2021-05-14 Fri 05:35]: this book is not just to illuminate new patterns of thought and feeling, but to offer a guide to action.

Page 23 [2021-05-14 Fri 05:50]: Of course, complications arise and multiply as young children grow up. They learn that some people are not trustworthy and that others don’t reciprocate acts of kindness. Children learn to internalize social norms and ethical expectations, especially from societal institutions. As they mature, children associate schooling with economic success, learn to package personal reputation into a marketable brand, and find satisfaction in buying and selling.

Page 24 [2021-05-14 Fri 05:52]: The elemental human impulse that we are born with — to help others, to improve existing practices — ripens into a stable social form with countless variations: a commons.

Page 31 [2021-05-14 Fri 14:18]: Tools should not attempt to control humans by prescribing narrow ways of doing things. Software should not be burdened with encryption and barriers to repair. Convivial tools are designed to unleash personal creativity and autonomy.13

Page 45 [2021-05-15 Sat 07:38]: The “prevailing life-motif” of modern capitalism and the liberal state, writes Greek social critic Andreas Karitzis: promotes the idea that a good life is essentially an individual achievement. Society and nature are just backdrops, a wallpaper for our egos, the contingent context in which our solitary selves will evolve pursuing individual goals. The individual owes nothing to no one, lacks a sense of respect for the previous generations or responsibility to future ones — and indifference is the proper attitude regarding present social problems and conditions.14

Page 46 [2021-05-15 Sat 07:40]: to see that everything is interdependent, and that our individual wellbeing depends upon collective well-being. Our polity must be “attuned to the relational dimension of life,” as Arturo Escobar puts it.

Page 49 [2021-05-15 Sat 07:52]: fundamentally different onto-logics about human relations with oceans.”20 The state approaches the ocean as a nonliving resource. As such it can be divided up into quantified, bounded units and exploited with an abstract market logic. Oil extraction is perfectly logical to the New Zealand state, whose legal system is constructed to privilege such activity. By contrast, the Maori see the ocean as a living being that has intense, intergenerational bonds with the Maori people. The ocean is imbued with mana, ancestral power, that must be honored with spiritual rituals and customary practices. (If this sounds irrational to you, consider this: such a worldview has worked remarkably well to protect both the oceans and human societies.)

In a relational ontology, the idea is that relations between entities are more fundamental than the entities themselves. Let this idea sink in. It means that living organisms develop and thrive through their interactions with each other.

While individual organisms may have important degrees of agency, they can only be understood in the context of their myriad relationships and constraints by larger structures.

Sounds a bit like Viable system model? And Institutional Analysis and Development (re: polycentrism)?

The new structure can help us envision different sorts of community, social practices, and economic institutions — and above all, a new culture that honors cooperation and sharing.

We came to realize that if we aspire to social and political transformation but try to do so using the language of market economics, state power, and political liberalism, we will fail.

When a conception permeates a thought collective strongly enough, so that it penetrates as far as everyday life and idiom and has become a viewpoint in the literal sense of the word, any contradiction appears unthinkable and unimaginable.”

Sounds like Cultural hegemony.

3.4 Part II: The Triad of Commoning

3.4.1 The Social Life of Commoning

3.4.2 Peer Governance Through Commoning

we cannot depend upon structures to do the work of culture.

Money-lite commoning.

how can I organize my life in such a way that I become less dependent on money? How do I decommodify daily life? Similar questions should be asked at the level of a project, initiative, infrastructure, or platform.

Commoning provided what we would now call a basic income — access to resources that ensure one’s basic survival.

3.4.3 Provisioning Through Commoning

3.5 Part III: Growing the Commonsverse

how can the Commonsverse grow larger and transform the political economy and culture? How can we achieve changes in state power, law, and policy based on a commons approach? These questions are the focus of Part III.

4 Elsewhere in the garden

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