The Future of Commons

Friederike Habermann & Simon Sutterlütti,
Summer Academy 2022 for Pluralist Economics, 2022
Level: leicht
Perspektive: Diverse
Thema: Ressourcen, Umwelt & Klima, Soziale Bewegungen & Transformation
Format: Syllabus

This workshop was originally taught at the Summer Academy for Pluralist Economics 2022
Instructors: Friederike Habermann, Simon Sutterlütti (Commons Institute, Germany)

The Future of Commons – Workshop

Commons stand for a plurality of practices ‘beyond market and state’ as the famous Commons scholar – and first female noble prize winner of economics - Elinor Ostrom put it. Their practice and theory challenge classical economic theory and stand for a different mode of caring, producing and governing. Within this workshop we want to dive into theory, practice and utopia of Commons following four blocks:

Our first block will be dedicated to understanding Commons. Different approaches to analyze Commons were put forward, and in discussion with Garret Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, neoclassical commons theory, Ostroms school and others we try to understand history, well-known commons projects – such as Wikipedia, common pastures or community-supported agriculture -  and everyday practice of Commoning – the practice of producing Commons. 

Our second block investigates the relationship of Commons and other form of socioeconomic provisioning such as market economy and state-planned economy. Commons activists and theorists put Commoning forward as a third-way of economic re/production that is essentially democratic, care-oriented and develops a non-colonizing relationship towards our natural surroundings. We will evaluate their critic of market and state-planned economy and discuss their claims.

As Commons usually are thought to be small-scale or niche-phenomena in our third block we take a look at theories that try to upscale Commoning to a society-wide mode of coordination, caring and production such as Ecommony, Care-Economy or Commonism. 

Our fourth block is dedicated to the question of socio-ecological transformation. Commons theoretician and activists criticized existing transformation theories for devaluating or even neglecting the importance to not only reform existing structures, but to create and even live a different economy. We will discuss these claims and ask what part Commons could and should play in a socio-economic transformation. 

Reading List

First impressions: 

Block 1: Hardin, Ostrom & Commons

Three perspectives on Commons (read & prepare in groups)

    Group I: Traditional
  • Ostrom: Communal tenure in high mountain meadows and forests: Tröbel, Switzerland (61 - 65) & Similarities among enduring, self-governing CPR institutions (88 – 102)

   Group II: Commons Economies

  • Peterson, Nicolas (1993), Demand Sharing: Reciprocity and the Pressure for Generosity among Foragers, in: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 95, No. 4, S. 860-874. 

   Group III: Pattern Language

    Group IV: Post-Capitalism

  • J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy, 2016. “Commoning as a postcapitalist politics.” In Releasing the Commons: Rethinking the Futures of the Commons, edited by Ash Amin and Philip Howell, Chapter 12, Routledge. 

Further Reading: 

Block 2: Capitalism and the Commons

Block 3: Utopia

Block 4: Transformation


Download syllabus here


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