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One of the most difficult things to endure in this pandemic, apart from the biophysical threat of Covid-19 itself, is the evaporation of meaning. Familiar institutions and norms are being revealed as dysfunctional or anti-social, leaving us in a fog of disorientation. Can the old, familiar narratives about “free markets” and a (seemingly) benign state truly be trusted to help us deal with the dangers we face? Reasonable people have reasonable doubts.

While sense-making has become a hothouse activity over the past five months, I have encountered three essays that have been of particular help to me in coming a clearer understanding of our current plight. These pieces are by ecophilosopher Andreas Weber, my long-time commons colleague Silke Helfrich, and systems-change activists Nora Bateson and Mamphela Ramphele.

In “Nourishing Community in Pandemic Times” Andreas Weber notes how the lockdown of the past several months underscores a point that neoliberalism has generally avoided – that “the individual can only live if the collective, which she constitutes with all others, is able to thrive.”

Market economics and corporations have little direct interest in the thriveability of a society, of course. They are structured to extract and privatize wealth, and monetize it for market exchange. That is their avowed mission, bolstered by a culture of individualistic materialism. Now that investors have largely commandeered state power to make this the top priority in societies, many governments around the world only pretend to serve the citizenry with any vigor. Everything is really about market growth.    

commons strategies
market economy


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Well, it hasn’t really worked out that way. While corporate publishers initially resisted open platforms, most have conceded the inevitability of open networks and shifted to clever business models that allow for a version of openness. Closed and proprietary content has often become (more) open and shareable, within limits. 

But that shimmering mecca of emancipation symbolized by “openness”? It has proven to be a mirage. Academic publishers have shown themselves adept at adapting to open access publishing models while consolidating their proprietary market power and control. The benefits to scholars, students, academic disciplines, university budgets, and freedom of expression have not been what they were cracked up to be.

It was with great pleasure, therefore, that I recently encountered a major statement by some British open-access renegades calling for a “commonifidation of open access.” The call to action is entitled “Labour of Love: An Open Access Manifesto for Freedom, integrity, and Creativity in the Humanities and Interpretive Social Sciences,” by Andreas E. Pia, Simon Batterbury, and eleven other colleagues.

The manifesto essentially makes the point that openness is not the same as commoning. My colleague Silke Helfrich and I had this epiphany when writing our book Free, Fair and Alive. In a section called, “How Commoning Moves Beyond the Open/Closed Binary” (pp. 68-72), we note how the open/closed binary focuses on the supposed status of the content itself – open or closed – and not on the social dynamics by which a community generates the content in the first place. (The chapter with these pages can be found online here.)

open access publishing
copyright law


African Americans have long been victimized by the theft of their land, labor, and the ability to buy land as they wish. Following the Civil War, few former slaves actually received the 40 acres and a mule promised them, and in later decades, all sorts of discriminatory federal policies and bank lending practices made it harder for Blacks and other non-Whites to acquire land. This only served to make it harder for them to earn a decent income, amass household wealth, and improve their lot.

Following the Black Lives Matters protests there have been a spate of important proposals for addressing these forms of structural racism and inequality. One idea gaining momentum is to move more land into community land trusts (CLTs), making it easier for African Americans to gain access to land for farming, housing, and other purposes while neutralizing capitalism’s tendency to generate greater structural inequality.

Shirley Sherrod, cofounder of New Communities Farm land trust, near Albany, Georgia

Acquiring more land for CLTs dedicated to African-American cultural use would be a great way to address a colossal historic wrong.  It would serve as a practical and effective reparation that would benefit many African Americans and communities, and could at the same time reclaim land for ecological and socially valuable purposes.

Theft of Black land has been remarkably common over the decades, as a number of journalistic accounts have documented in recent years. In 2023, for example, p站免费加速器 and The New Yorker described how white developers and lawyers used legal trickery and corrupt judges to take over ancestral land owned by two Black brothers in Carteret County, North Carolina. The practices have been widely used in the South as a way to steal land from African Americans.

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community land trusts
African Americans
commons strategies


The following opinion piece of mine was published by pixiv手机加速器 on April 26, 2023, and is re-published here with AJE's permission.

When astronaut Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, it was seen as an idealistic leap into the cosmos – a “giant leap for mankind.” A few weeks ago, the real estate developer who improbably became US President has legally declared that he sees the Moon in far less elevated terms. He signed an executive order that authorizes private, commercial uses of the Moon and other “off-Earth” “resources” like Mars and meteors. Heavenly bodies are now seen as underleveraged assets meant to generate profits. 

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The Trump administration is also exploring the feasibility of “the large-scale economic development of space,” including “private lunar landers staking out de facto ‘property rights’ for Americans on the Moon, by 2023,” as well as the right to mine asteroids for precious metals. If it all sounds like the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, said Ross with evident self-congratulation, well, that vision “is coming closer to reality sooner than you may have ever thought possible.”

Since Donald Trump’s career has been built on claims of “truthful hyperbole,” skeptics might reasonably see this space fantasy as the empty bravado of the Huckster in Chief. Still, we need to ask a fundamental question: Who owns the Moon, anyway?



It has been an awful and amazing two weeks – a time of reckoning that is long overdue, a time of coming together that, despite the tragic circumstances, has been enlivening. What is so remarkable is that the Black Lives Matter protests have been nested within a larger, unprecedented trauma, the pandemic. I have found the protests riveting and inspiring, and the brazen police brutality enraging.  The outpouring has issued a call to all of us, especially white people, to look beyond the engrained American norms that have made life so dangerous and demoralizing for people of color.

Anthropologist/activist David Graeber sees the spontaneous protests as part of a larger movement. As he put it in a tweet: “Direct action and social movement are about the re-creation of society. Society has been taken from us. There has been a 40-year campaign to destroy attachments unmediated by the state or capital. This is the only way to start rebuilding it.” We are witnessing a re-convening of the American people and their ideals.

However, the pain of history is not past, as Faulkner once said. That's because the past is not really past. It is very much with us, internalized, in the present. Thanks to the protests, triggered by a brazen murder carried out by an agent of the state and circulated on social media, a deeper shift in consciousness has begun. It is now clear that there are really no bystanders. We are all implicated, particularly those with white privilege. As the artist Banksy put it, “At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem. It’s mine.”

This very idea enrages President Trump, whose denial is manifest in countless deflections and vile insults aimed at protecting white supremacy. Thankfully, history is not trending in his direction. Already major corporations and even the National Football League, the long-time nemesis of “take a knee” quarterback Colin Kaepernick, now publicly support Black Lives Matter. The burden has visibly shifted to white people to look within themselves and take affirmative steps for change.

How refreshing, too, to see ordinary people assert a new vision of history in real time! Citizens have spontaneously toppled statues honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Christopher Columbus. In Bristol, England, a crowd threw the statute of 17th century slave-trader Edward Colston – responsible for selling more than 84,000 Africans into slavery -- into the harbor.

commons stragegies


The latest episode of the p站伋理加速器podcast is now live! This time, I interview Paul Baines, Outreach and Education Coordinator of the Great Lakes Commons, a project that fosters new attitudes and practices toward those massive bodies of endangered water.

The primary strategy of the Great Lakes Commons is not to pursue the usual approaches through the complicated multi-jurisdictional US/Canadian policymaking regime. While a necessary venue for advocacy, these legal and regulatory channels are often a fast track to stalemate. The goal of the Great Lakes Commons is more long-term and structural -- to change culture. It wants to change how people see and relate to the lakes and to each other, which in turn can affect larger motivations for change.

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  • Awaken & restore our relationship to these incredible waters.
  • Activate a spirit of responsibility and belonging in the bioregion.
  • Establish stewardship and governance that enables communities to protect these waters forever.

As Baines told me, “I’ve always felt, since my early twenties, that the environmental crisis is not a problem with the environment, but with our culture.”  p站免费加速器

So Baines and his colleagues have engaged people who live around the Great Lakes with projects that make them relate to these bodies of water in new ways. Through crowdsourced maps, for example, the Great Lakes Commons has invited people to share memorable personal stories about experiences with the lakes. Their stories are then “pinned” on a digital map indicating where they live, so anyone can browse the map and hear a variety of such stories.

indigenous people


Language is surely one of the greatest political weapons ever invented because it invisibly defines the world in narrow ways and can impair our capacity to see and think clearly. This is one of the takeaways I had after looking through Sian Sullivan’s new website, “The Natural Capital Myth and Other Stories,” which collects twelve years of her writing (2008 to present) on this theme. 

Sian has long brought laser-beam clarity to the ways in which capitalism redefines the more-than-human world in financial terms. The investor class has not just introduced a handful of words; they have invented an entire worldview that erases nature and turns it into an essential element of capitalist production and profit. The natural world is re-interpreted through the scrim of money. That may not be pernicious in and of itself, but now that this perspective informs how the market/state order relates to the natural world, well….that’s a serious problem.

By “financialization,” Sullivan means the “revisioning and rewriting of the natural world in terms of financial terms and concepts.” She also means that banks and financiers regard “environmental conservation activities as new possibilities for speculative investments and products” – a new zone for profiteering and capital accumulation. 

This is deeply concerning because, as conservation itself becomes a way to make money, the line between “nature” and “capital” is starting to blur. The Orwellian term “natural capital” has become a way to justify a relentless extractivism, in the name of preserving nature!



In the course of researching his forthcoming book on human cooperation, Humankind: A Hopeful History, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman had to deal with the inevitable atrocities and behaviors that suggest that humanity is barbaric at its core. There is no question that humanity has shown such tendencies through history. But is savage cruelty the default setting for “human nature”? 

As anyone who has gone through high school remembers, that is the one lesson we were all taught when assigned to read Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. That classic book, you may recall, is about a band of British schoolboys who are shipwrecked on a desert island. Forced to create their own society, they end up shedding the veneer of (British) civilization and reveal themselves to be utterly nasty and depraved. When the constraints of civilization and state power disappear, the story tells us, we all revert to savagery. We choose barbarism.

Poster for the 1990 film 'Lord of the Flies'

Since its publication in 1951, Lord of the Flies has been translated into more than 30 languages and sold tens of millions of copies. The idea that humanity is disturbingly sinister at heart would seem to be widely believed. Or at least readers may find such stories darkly thrilling, for which there is certainly something to be said.

But Bregman discovered that Lord of the Flies was more a flight of William Golding’s perfervid imagination than an empirical description of humanity. In researching his book, Bregman tripped across a blog post that referred to an actual incident of shipwrecked boys in the South Pacific in 1965. According to the blog, “six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip….Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe? They made a pact never to quarrel.”

Whaaaaaat? You mean, boys stranded in the wilderness don’t descend into barbarism? 


The following essay is adapted from a talk given on May 5 at Radical May, a month-long series of events hosted by a consortium of fifty-plus book publishers, including my own publisher, New Society Publishers. My talk -- streamed and later posted on YouTube here -- builds on two previous blog posts.


As the pandemic continues, it is revealing just how deeply flawed our societal institutions really are. Government programs reward the affluent and punish the poor, and are often ineffectual or politically corrupted. The market/state order is so committed to promoting market growth and using centralized hierarchies to control life, that the resulting systems are fragile, clumsy, and non-resilient. And so on. It is increasingly evident that the problems we face are profoundly systemic.pixiv手机加速器

After dealing with emergencies, therefore, we need to pause and think about mid-term changes in how we can redesign our economy and governance institutions. We need second responders to help emancipate ourselves from archaic, ineffective institutions and infrastructures. We must not revert to old ideological patterns of thought as if the pandemic were simply a temporary break from the normal. “Normal” is not coming back. The new normal has already arrived.  

The pandemic is not just about rethinking big systems; it is also about confronting inner realities that need to change. We need to recognize and feel the suffering that is going on around us. We need to understand our interdependencies so that we can build appropriate institutions to rebuild and honor our relationships to each other. Our inner lives and external institutions need to be in better alignment.

Our years of leisurely critique of neoliberal capitalism are over. Now we need to take action to escape from its pathologies and develop new types of governance, provisioning, and social forms. Fortunately, there are many new possibilities for institutional change – in relocalization, agriculture and food, cities, digital networks, social life, and many other areas.



I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new podcast series, Frontiers of Commoning, which is a project of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. Every month I plan to host a lively conversation with creative pioneers who are demonstrating new ways of commoning.

In my travels over the years, I’ve encountered dozens of fascinating people who are developing commons in unlikely and challenging contexts. There are commoners who are making theater into commons and creating regional currencies to retain locally generated value. There are folks who are trying to create new types of commons for bodies of water like the Great Lakes in North America, and people stewarding forest commons and creating platform cooperatives to challenge Silicon Valley.网页加速器

The podcast format appealed to me because it enables a lively back-and-forth conversation in their own voice. I plan to ask people: So how does your commons work and what special problems have you had to overcome? I'd like to get a sense of the personality of the commoners interviewed and the emotional complexities of their work.

In episodes of thirty to sixty minutes, 手机p站加速器will get up close and personal with the emerging practices of lots of path-breaking commoners. The first episode features the two artistic directors of Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, Massachusetts -- Carlos Uriona and Matthew Glassman. They explain how commoning informs the performances and stewardship of their artist-owned ensemble theater company. Every summer, the original productions and creative outdoor staging of Double Edge Theatre performances attract sell-out crowds to its farm in the green hills of western Massachusetts.

The organization is also a leading force in a national network of theater companies, performers, and arts and culture projects that is exploring how commoning lies at the heart of artistic work and social engagement. And this only begins to scratch the surface. Here is a link to the first podcast episode.

digital technology


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