Heuristics for discussing “the commons”
This is a draft paper by @joe-corneli after a discussion between Joe and Helene on how the commons could help coalesce the efforts of disparate movements for change. Open for comments and fine tuning!
"Metacommons" is in important notion because everyone has different goals.
The commons is vastly complicated. And yet, many different people and organizations who want to
work for the common good would also like to funnel you through their world view. This inspires a a meta-heuristic: make sure you ask the right questions to the right audience!
The "channel" is always going to have an influence on the converation. Our strategy is to try to provide a channel, but to be minimally noisy, and to understand how different people shape the channel.
This view is rooted in an understanding of the commons as "Not transcending, but underlying." Our hope is to involve many people who talk in terms of "commons logic" to build the meta-commons — a place where we can coordinate and cooperate effectively.
"By telling our stories and how they relate to abundance and the commons, we can aggregate coherence from a variety of disparate initiatives and accelerate the movement towards new ways of overcoming our current economic, social and environmental crises."
We envision a loose coalescence of narratives, after Ann Pendleton-Jullian (bio). However, we expect this will happen only by light-weight scaffolding. We envision the metacommon to be the ongoing conversation and collective action of a fully "decentralized international". But this is a very important conversation to have: as Peter Sloterdijk reminds us, regarding change, no one has time to wait for an entire generation any more.
So, we seek a convergence of factors that are favorable to the logic of the commons as it is variously understood within different "action logics". Within these various logics, the drivers and goals are not interchangeable: you may not agree on goals, but if you can try and define the common ground in the underlying drivers, you can define the nature of the "push" (image). Connecting with this sort of commons logic can help things go where they are supposed to go.
Our goal with thinking and talking about the "metacommons" is to express the underlying commons logic in words and images can be grasped by every action logic. We're looking for the expression of the underlying logic.
This is something that we all have to face every day. We all have within us many levels, stages, or sides which segment the various drivers of action. The "logic" that we're talking about is implemented by a collection of "virtual machines", to use the language of Aaron Sloman — machines that are ofter capable of representing and acting upon other action logics.
Many of these logics are actually "heuristics". For example, we can consider "all or nothing" logics, which bring to mind a somewhat competitive spirit, even if it is just a race against the clock. Other logics have more to do with a general theme emerging in parts, without an all-or-nothing aspect, and typically without a "roadmap" or "plan".
There are many different, and disparate, conversations that can be hooked into commons thinking. For example, we sometimes here people arguing that the "Public Domain is not a commons". Nevertheless, it can be readily connected to discussions about the commons. Similarly, the general theme of reducing externalities can be hooked to a commons logic. Not-for-profits may or may not have a commons orientation by default, but they can be connected to a commons discussion. "Social enterprise" is also a key topic in many current conversations.
"Profit isn't a problem, it's profits that are siphoned up"
Non-profits can themselves be market-based and enterprised based (e.g Brac from Bangladesh. Compare this post on the P2PF webpage. Non-profits might like to share knowledge and skills pertaining to making websites: how does this generalize?
Different notions of planning
Sometimes it is useful to adopt the strategy of having no roadmap at all, and simply let things emerge. […] When we are going in some direction – it does not have to mean that we are going towards a specific place – it can simply mean that we need to (re) gain some balance between where we are and that place, and it all about finding that balance. (Dorotea Mar).
Our action items
- We can work on this in several places.
- We can create a portable "kit" that can be used to start these conversations and connect them back together.
- In particular, we can recreate this conversation with variations, reiterating it in a meaningful way, so that more people can "own" the process of creating a metacommons.
Aiming to build something flexible, something that is not so well-packaged that makes it hard to think. We need to reinvent the metacommons every time we talk about it. This is one place where it's good to reinvent the wheel! In doing this, we will come up with many use cases.
Helene's advice on building a movement of movements
- It is important to be aware of the various action logics that drive movements.
- Action logics are not interchangeable, and they can be hard to put under 1 banner.
- 'shared goals' are expressed differently in various actions logics.
- "Building a movement of movements" involves finding an underlying logic & its various expressions, locating the immanent drivers and not depending on transcendant ones.
- Our working assumption is that each has its own immanent logic, with some commonality, acting toward a better world
Joe's comments on Helene's discussion questions about "commons logic"
What I particularly like about the questions Helene asks is that it's possible to answer a few or many of them, add new questions, make different connections between ideas and projects, etc. — and this way we can build a shared discussion that covers many different aspects of exploitation/flow/enclosure/growing/commons/generation/livelihood/etc., without being tied to one way of thinking.
- Helene's slideshare
- Joe's thesis
- The book "The Question of the Commons"
- Building a global movement of movements, 11 & 12 November 2013
- Spiral Dynamics – evolutionary psychology – action logics by Suzanne Cook-Greuter
- Deleuze "Bergsonism" (1966) (in french)
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