The Commons

In a just world, the idea of wealth–be it money derived from the work of human hands, the resources and natural splendor of the planet itself–and the knowledge handed down through generations belongs to all of us. But in our decidedly unjust and imperfect world, our collective wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. There is be a better way–the notion of the commons–common land, resources, knowledge–is a common-sense way to share our natural, cultural, intellectual riches.

In this innovative animation, filmmaker Laura Hanna, writer Gavin Browning and video artists/animators Dana Schechter and Molly Schwartz examine the concept of “The Commons” as a means to achieve a society of justice and equality.

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The Common in Communism

Michael Hardt
The common must be the foundation of any communist hypothesis today. This is true due primarily to two interconnecting and conflicting conditions of the common with respect to capitalist production. First, contemporary capitalist production relies ever more centrally on the production and productivity of the common. And, second, the common, since it must be shared and open to free access, is antithetical to property. In other words, the common and its productivity are destroyed when relations of property (private or public) are imposed on it; and, in turn, the affirmation of the common implies the destruction of property. The dynamics of class struggle today and the project to overcome class society develop on the terrain of the common.

I generally agree with the efforts of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Zizek to renew the idea of communism and the communist hypothesis. The concept of communism, like that of democracy, has been corrupted so that today in standard usage it has come to mean its opposite, that is, state control of economic and social life. I would like to shift the discussion slightly, however, or recenter it from Badiou’s and Zizek’s focus on the political decision to the critique of political economy and the project for the abolition of property. To realize the communist hypothesis for our times we need to move, so to speak, from Lenin to Marx. Indeed one of the reasons that the communist hypotheses of previous eras are no longer valid is that the composition of capital – as well as the conditions and products of capitalist production – have altered. Most importantly the technical composition of labor has changed. How do people produce both inside and outside the workplace? What do they produce and under what conditions? How is productive cooperation organized? And what are the divisions of labor and power that separate them along gender and racial lines and in the local, regional, and global contexts? In addition to investigating the current composition of labor, we also have to analyze the relations of property under which labor produces. Along with Marx we can say that the critique of political economy is, at its heart, a critique of property. “The theory of the Communists,” Marx and Engels write in the Manifesto, “may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”1

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Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOZC8FKV9q8[/youtube]

Dr. Elinor Ostrom became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics on October 12th, 2009, just four months after speaking at the Frankfurt School on the same topic in which she was awarded the prize.

Renowned political scientist, Dr. Elinor Ostrom, from Indiana University – Bloomington, gave a lecture on Friday June 19th, 2009, outlining her latest research and outcomes regarding the problem of “the commons.”

In the lab, she had simulated conflicts concerning the allocation of the commons and had derived a complex theoretical framework that exploits the various elements (e.g. leadership, trust and reciprocity) of this process.

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The Commons

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7jaSjkd0jM[/youtube]

In a just world, the idea of wealth–be it money derived from the work of human hands, the resources and natural splendor of the planet itself–and the knowledge handed down through generations belongs to all of us. But in our decidedly unjust and imperfect world, our collective wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. There is be a better way–the notion of the commons–common land, resources, knowledge–is a common-sense way to share our natural, cultural, intellectual riches.

Read the rest of this entry »