The International Commons Conference, Berlin, Germany, Nov 1, 2010

An Interpretive Summary by David Bollier

David Bollier, November 2010

To download : PDF (260 KiB)

In other languages : Español

Summary :

For years the commons has been gaining momentum as a new

paradigm of economics, politics and culture. Its rise can be seen in countless

milieus around the world: among indigenous peoples in Latin America

determined to protect their ecosystems and cultures; among farmers in India

defending the right to share seeds; among Croatians seeking to prevent the

privatization of cherished public spaces; among communities trying to

preventing multinational bottling companies from appropriating local

groundwater; and among diverse digital commoners who are creating

“shareable” resources such as free software, Wikipedia, open educational

resources and open access journals.

Until recently, mainstream political culture has regarded the commons

as an inevitable “tragedy” that results in the over-exploitation of scarce

resources. This has helped make the commons a marginal side-story that

could be safely ignored. But after the “economic crisis” of October 2008, it

has been much harder to dismiss the commons as a tragedy, anachronism

or novelty. It became even harder after the Nobel Prize in Economics was

awarded to Professor Elinor Ostrom, a pioneering scholar of the commons, in

2009. The growth of countless Internet commons has also been a pointed

rebuttal to orthodox economists who regard the market as the only serious

means for generating valuable resources.

For these and other reasons, the commons is increasingly being seen

as a rich seedbed of community empowerment and a template for new types

of fair and sustainable resource management. It offers a way to critique the

failures of neoliberal capitalism while encouraging the development of

innovative policy alternatives.

It was in this context that the Heinrich Böll Foundation – a publicly

financed nonprofit organization affiliated with the German Greens that works

independently with various partners through its 28 worldwide offices –

decided to convene a major international conference on the commons.

Sources :

Web site of the Heinrich Böll Foundation