“The prevailing dogma of market-fundamentalism has increasingly been called into question as the predatory dynamics of the market economy become clear and as its threats to the biosphere have become more acute. Our conference “Economics and the Common(s): From Seed Form to Core Paradigm” has opened up some new vistas in politics, economics and culture by exploring the commons as an alternative worldview and provisioning system, as well as a coherent field of inquiry and action. It has convened approximately 210 commoners – researchers, practitioners and advocates from around the world – to explore the relationship of conventional economics and the commons, showcase key actors and initiatives, and devise plans for moving the commons paradigm forward.”
One of the most significant impediments to positive social change is the entrenched power of market-fundamentalism as an economic and political paradigm. The prevailing dogma is that only a scheme of individual self-interest, expansive individual property rights, market exchange, and globalized free trade can advance human well-being. This view has increasingly been called into question as the predatory dynamics of the market economy become clear and as its threats to the biosphere have become more acute.
ECONOMICS AND THE COMMON(S): FROM SEED FORM TO CORE PARADIGM sought to open up some new vistas in politics, economics and culture by exploring the commons as an alternative worldview and provisioning system. A rich array of commons – in nature, cities, civic life, the Internet, and many other realms – are showing that commons can provide stable, equitable and ecologically benign alternatives to conventional markets. The Economics and the Commons Conference (ECC) expanded and empowered this work by exploring the commons as a coherent field of inquiry and action. It convened approximately 240 commoners — researchers, practitioners, and advocates from around the world — to explore the relationship of conventional economics and the commons, showcase key actors and initiatives, and devise plans for moving the commons paradigm forward. Special care was taken to avoid a “sectoralization” of commons discussion because we believe that a coherent “general narrative” of the commons nurtures global social change and applies across many different sectors of commoning.
Among the questions asked: What core principles of commoning can be identified across different resource domains? What makes a commons so generative? In what circumstances can commons-based provisioning models substitute for conventional markets, or interact constructively with markets? How can the protection and re-creation of the commons be made an integrated part of productive processes?
The Economics and the Commons Conference (ECC) was hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation (hbf) in cooperation with the Commons Strategies Group, The Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation, and Remix the Commons. The event took place at the headquarters of hbf in Berlin from May 22 to 24, 2013. Optional side-events on topics such as communications strategies for the commons, governance of global commons, and others, were held on May 21-22 and 25.
Goals of the Conference
The ECC sought to show the breadth and feasibility of commons-based provisioning and forge a coherent narrative and analysis about it and the next steps for action.
Substantive discussion at the conference were therefore focused on several key themes:
- The commons as a way to move beyond conventional economics;
- Alternative economic and provisioning models;
- The transformations needed to move to a new type of economy.
The conference featured six separate Streams with plenary keynote talks and breakout sessions to probe issues in greater depth. The ECC and its Streams are designed to foster dialogue, collaboration, creative thinking and follow-up action, and not just “expert” presentations. The six Streams are:
1. Land and Nature
Stream Coordinator: Saki Bailey (Italy)
- Detailed stream description
- Documentation on the ECC2013 Land and Nature Stream
- Rough Draft Notes on Water Breakout Group for Land and Nature Stream
2. Doing away with labor: Working and Caring in a World of Commons
Stream coordinator: Heike Löschmann (Germany)
3. Treating Knowledge, Culture and Science as Commons
Science, and recently, free software, are paradigmatic knowledge commons; copyright and patent are paradigmatic enclosures. But our focus on paradigmatic examples and the language of “intellectual property” and “openness” may actually limit our imaginations about what might be possible. If we took the commons seriously, for example, we might begin to see that copyright and patent are not just knowledge enclosures, but “modern” ways of enforcing privileges and inequalities in what may be known and communicated. Similarly, that open access and use is not necessarily an emancipation, but rather a shift in control to those who own the digital platform. This Stream will attempt to (re)consider and (re)conceptualize the free/libre/open/commons movements from a strategic and commons-first perspective.
Stream Coordinator: Mike Linksvayer (USA)
- Detailed stream description
- Documentation on the ECC2013 Knowledge Stream + Resources recommended by stream participants
4. Money, Markets, Value and the Commons
The objective of this Stream is to integrate the different “paths of imagination” towards a Commons Economy, and to get a clearer picture of the architecture and underlying design principles of a commons-oriented market places and exchange systems.
Stream Coordinator: Ludwig Schuster (Germany)
5. New Infrastructures for Commoning by Design
Stream Coordinator: Miguel Said Vieira (Brazil)
- Detailed stream description
- Documentation on the ECC2013 Infrastructure Stream
- Rough Meeting Notes from the Infrastructure Stream
The Commons Strategies Group and Heinrich Böll Foundation were the joint organizers of this conference, which was an outgrowth of the landmark International Commons Conference (ICC) in Berlin in November 2010. That event brought together about 180 commons activists, academics and project leaders from 34 countries, and started a cross-disciplinary political and policy dialogue about the commons in diverse international settings.
The Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation supported the International Commons Conference in 2010 as well.