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The Global Idea of 'The Commons'

The Global Idea of 'The Commons'

Edited by Donald M. Nonini
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 142
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  • Book Info
    The Global Idea of 'The Commons'
    Book Description:

    During the last three decades, corporations allied with scientists and universities, national and regional governments, and international financial institutions have, through a variety of mechanisms associated with neo-liberal globalization, acted to dispossess large proportions of the world's population of their commons' resources and enclose them for profit making. In response, throughout the global South and in the cities of the global North, large numbers of people have formed movements to defend the commons in all their variety. The idea of the commons has thus emerged as a global idea, and commons have emerged as sites of conflict around the world. The essays in this forum assess strategically the situations of selected commons in a variety of diagnostic sites where they exist, the ways in which they are being transformed by the incursions of capital and state, and the ways in which they are becoming the locus of struggle for those who depend on them to survive.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-480-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: The Global Idea of ‘the Commons’
    (pp. 1-25)
    Donald M. Nonini

    What is now at stake at this point in world history is control over ‘the commons’—the great variety of natural, physical, social, intellectual, and cultural resources that make human survival possible. By ‘the commons’ I mean those assemblages and ensembles of resources that human beings hold in common or in trust to use on behalf of themselves, other living human beings, and past and future generations of human beings, and which are essential to their biological, cultural, and social reproduction.¹

    Various kinds of commons have long existed as viable and durable arrangements for providing for the needs of human...

  4. Collectivism, Universalism, and Struggles over Common Property Resources in the ‘New Europe’
    (pp. 26-40)
    John Pickles

    Anyone who studies post-socialist political economy probably has to begin a discussion of ‘the commons’ and common property resources by explaining the relationship between common property and collectivism, and the enormous impact that liberal and neo-liberal thought and institutions have had on the social economies of the Eastern European commons. In this article, I want to do this in three ways. First, I argue that contemporary accounts of socialist and post-socialist common property resources and practices have been shaped by the commitments of neo-liberalism and have had the very particular effect (and perhaps intent) of discrediting certain kinds of collective...

  5. ‘The Commons’ in an Amazonian Context
    (pp. 41-52)
    Flora Lu

    The tropical rainforest houses a wealth of both ecological and cultural diversity, and the species richness, ecosystem services, genetic wealth, and repository of indigenous and local environmental knowledge stored in this endangered region represent a global commons at risk. As articulated by Donald Nonini in the introduction to this volume, ‘the commons’ refers to those assemblages and ensembles of resources that human beings hold in common or in trust on behalf of themselves, other living human beings, and past and future generations of human beings, and that are essential to their biological, cultural, and social reproduction. In the Amazon, many...

  6. The Genetic Commons: Resisting the Neo-liberal Enclosure of Life
    (pp. 53-65)
    Stephen B. Scharper and Hilary Cunningham

    The notion of a ‘genetic commons’ is a broad-based, multi-faceted response to a particular constellation of technological, cultural, economic, political, ethical, and legal developments of the past three decades. Prompted principally by advances in biotechnology and the heretofore unprecedented patenting of life forms, the genetic commons movement seeks to critique and resist the commodification and commercialization of ‘nature’ and to establish a cosmological and political space outside of, and protected from, neo-liberal capitalist processes.

    In this article we provide a brief overview of the development of biotechnology and the subsequent patenting of genetic material, showing how these developments are embedded...

  7. Reflections on Intellectual Commons
    (pp. 66-88)
    Donald M. Nonini

    Marilyn Strathern, in her collection of essays,Commons and Borderlands(2004: 39–40), reflects on interdisciplinary research collaboration and its products in the contemporary British university setting. She points to two opposed pressures on such research. One, seeking “undivided outcomes,” comes from those engaged in interdisciplinary research who see “an object held in common, the joint product, multi-authored, of diverse efforts.” The other comes from those determined to attribute “ownership” as a matter of “undivided origins” to an individual “owner” of the object—its presumed creator—who can be uniquely identified and appropriately awarded, often with legal intellectual property rights...

  8. Reinventing the Appalachian Commons
    (pp. 89-114)
    Jefferson C. Boyer

    It was a momentous occasion. Just 10 days before the community celebrated the ‘saving’ of the 2000-acre Elk Knob region from developers, Dr. Patricia Beaver and several Appalachian Studies students met with 80-year-old Council Main on his family land with a spectacular view of Elk Knob and, stretching out beyond it, Ashe County, North Carolina’s Long Hope Ridge, and Peak Mountain. Pleased about the saving of his homeland and heritage, Council was identifying wild plants and explaining about their medicinal uses and how they were harvested. When a student asked if individuals had designated spots for plant collecting, Council responded:...

  9. Conceiving the Health Commons: Operationalizing a ‘Right’ to Health
    (pp. 115-135)
    Sandy Smith-Nonini

    In a perusal of literature on ‘the commons’, it is striking how rarely medicine and health services are mentioned as potential commons. Nor is the concept of the commons discussed in medical and health journals, where database searches turn up only the odd article using the term in a title or abstract. This essay evolved as an inquiry into what benefit might be gained from conceiving of a health commons.

    The fact that scholars seldom discuss a health or medical commons as such may be a fluke of nomenclature. Perhaps, as Bollier (2002a: 1) notes, it is a matter of...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 136-138)