The Politics of the Commons: Reform or Revolt?

Vangelis Papadimitropoulos

Abstract


In this paper I present a critical overview of the contemporary political theories of the Commons, classified in three main categories: 1) the liberal 2) the reformist and 3) the anti-capitalist. Advocates of the liberal theory of the Commons take a stand in favour of the coexistence of the Commons with the state and the market. The reformists argue for the gradual adjustment of capitalism to the Commons with the aid of a partner state, while the anti-capitalists contrast both the liberals and the reformists by supporting the development of the commons against and beyond capitalism. I make the case that both the liberal and the anti-capitalist theorists miss the likelihood of technology rendering redundant large-scale production in the future, and forcing thus capitalism to adjust to the Commons in the long run. The prospect, therefore, of an open cooperativism introduced by the reformist theory holds significant potential with respect to the future development of the Commons. For the Commons however to expand and flourish, a global institutional reform, followed by a set of inter-local and international principles, is sine qua non. Hence, transparency of information, distribution of value, solidarity and bottom-up self-management are the core variables of individual and collective autonomy inasmuch as they permit a community or group to formulate its values in relation to the needs and skills of its members.


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