Sub-theme 11. Advances in Frameworks and Theory
Conceptualizing Commons and the Community Economy for Economists
Although it is clear that commons can be understood from an institutional economic perspective, and the IAD-framework is very helpful to explain how commons function from an organizational perspective, there is still a large gap to understand how commons work from the economics perspective. The main reason is that the analytical tools of economics are largely made for explaining market transactions or the economic role of the state. Commons, the community economy, cooperation, and the care economy are all concepts that some economists use. But they do not yet form a coherent whole for the understanding of the third economic domain next to the market and the state.
This panel tries to bring together papers which help develop economic tools for a better understanding of the community economy, of which commons make an important part, next to cooperative firms, citizen’s collectives, time banks, mutuals, and to some extent at least unpaid caring activities. In other words, the domain of reciprocity instead of exchange or regulation & redistribution.
Rather than trying to fit standard economic concepts in the community economy, this panel attempts to learn from the commonalities in community economy, and in particular of commons, for the development of analytical tools in economics, to better understand the wider economic role of the community economy, its relationships to and interaction with the market and the state, and its internal functioning.
1. Shaping a Communitarian Ethos in an Era of Ecological Crisis
Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Mexico
In response to the deep social and ecological crisis for which the international community is proving incapable of attenuating, many Peasants and Indigenous peoples in the Global South, are transforming their visions of their futures, shaping a new ethos of self-management and conviviality, consistent with a responsible relationship to their territories. These peoples constitute a social and economic force altering the social and productive dynamics in many countries, proposing models of organization and building alliances among themselves regionally and internationally to exchange information, develop common strategies, and provide political support. Many continue to produce traditional crops, while modifying their techniques to incorporate agroecological experiences from other communities, diversifying output and protecting the environment. Recently, they are enriching local practices with a systematization of their inherited traditions and cosmologies, creating effective models of social, political, and environmental organization that lend authority to their claims to be able to manage their territories autonomously. There is a growing body of scientific literature that substantiates this capacity, demonstrating that the collective knowledge of the global networks of local communities is more effective in protecting biodiversity and attending to their own basic needs while improving their quality of life than that of societies more fully integrated into the global economy. In conclusion, we describe how these visions are shaping international networks, defining new channels for collaboration, and improving the quality of life for people in these communities, while protecting them
2. Lessons for economics from the empirical commons literature
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Elinor Ostrom has positioned the theoretical framework for the study of commons (and other forms of collective action) within institutional economics. But the three key schools of institutional economics (Old Institutional Economics, Evolutionary Economics, and New Institutional Economics) have hardly taken these insights into account. Moreover, there are also lessons to be learned for other heterodox schools of economic thought, including social economics and ecological economics.
In this paper, we will try to make some of the connections more explicit. Not as add-ons, but by suggesting fundamental changes in key concepts and analytical tools that are considered as standard in some other heterodox economic theories. For example, we will consider how ‘resilience’ may be integrated into an expanded notion of efficiency in old institutional economics; how the understanding of social norms in collective action may help to elaborate the role of social norms in social economics; and what the ecological economics concerned with climate change might learn from how commitment is generated and sustained in commons.
3. The Urban Commons’ economic analysis through New Materialism ontologies. Some empirical evidences
1National Research Council (CNR), Institute for Research on Innovation and Services for Development (IRISS), Italy, 2Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal
The paper addresses Urban Commons’ economic analysis once approached through New Materialism ontologies. Mostly theorized in quantum physics and philosophy, it is along the way of New Materialism that an emergent analytical tool-kit could be extended to economic value discourse.
What motivates us is the possibility of a new ecological deal in Commons Theory, whereas governance is no more grounded on binary human subject – nonhuman object relationships. New Materialism calls us to a shift from a vision of polycentric governance, whose outcome is provided in terms of efficiency through normative institutions, to a governance understood as an intra-actioning (Barad, 2003), that is, a zone of indistinction between the usual categories of community and resource.
We believe that New Materialisms can guide the economic study of commons governance in two categorical innovations: considering Time, instead of land, as a ‘resource’ to be made non-scarce; reinventing agency, from a human community relating to a resource, to a surface of immanence (Deleuze, Guattari 1980; Bruno, 2014). An intra-active governance operates both a shifting and heterogeneous community and a land to be managed. What has to be governed by this indistinct agency is the cyclical reproduction of Time to infinity.
Providing evidences from L’Asilo, an Urban Commons based in Naples, Southern Italy, we will see that the economic result of commons to be evaluated moves from a cause-effect linearity, as a project based on limited rationality, to a cyclical and performative discourse, as the infinite return of the political and economic principle of Commoning.
4. Property Moves: Assembling Service Streams
University of Chicago Law School, USA
How can we optimize resource use? Property law attempts to answer this question through institutional design. Conventionally, it does so by assigning an owner to a legally cognizable thing—an object or parcel of land. But that model of property fails to adequately account for the interdependencies and nonlinearities that characterize patterns of resource use within cities and ecosystems. Consider, for example, the agglomeration effects that come from putting together people and ideas in cities or the ecological services that come from assembling habitats at a sustainable scale. What matters most in such contexts is the capacity to combine—and recombine—resources and cooperation into patterns that enable beneficial services to flow from them.
Shifting attention to benefit flows—thinking in terms of streams, not things—changes our understanding of property’s design requirements. Because all of the elements necessary to produce a given stream of urban or environmental benefits rarely reside in one owner’s hands, creating value requires assembly: putting resources and cooperation together into valuable combinations. Further, dynamic conditions in cities and ecosystems make resource assembly not a one-time event but an ongoing process, requiring property arrangements that are built for reconfiguration. To that end, I develop a repertoire of “property moves” aimed at keeping up with the moving target of resource optimization. These moves require engaging innovatively with the mix of commons property and private property found in complex, interdependent systems.