Debates about commons and their social movements take place between the conflicting priorities of resistance of current dispossession and the development of new perspectives. Commons have their own power besides the market (sector) and the government and an own driving force of transformation towards more sustainability. As "resistance" factor they represent a critical corrective of predominant, neoliberal-economical rationality and practices and are a "new frame of reference" featuring future developments beyond the government and the market (sector). Surely they do not illustrate the one and only solution. A central challenge related to "commons” is that it refers to what is meant by the term "transformation": A remodelling of recent societies that affects their core, shape and structure. By today, "civil" societies are centrally shaped by their property constitutions. But until tomorrow and in the context of a great transformation, the constitution of property needs to be rewritten. Not in the sense that from now on everything belongs to public property and that this form of property is able to solve all problems, but in the sense that the acquisition of property takes place diversely and by following sustainable criteria.
As a matter of fact, even with old and new ideas of society and public property and by means of commons, things in our world will not automatically become "good" and "right". Instead it has to be asked what kinds of conditions and policies, which windows of opportunities and which rights are necessary to ensure that commons are able to develop a democratic sustainability potential. A crucial condition here is to turn around the relation of growth and negative growth of private and public space. Commons require a strong democratic public and a qualitatively valuable public space.
This paper firstly introduces the different terms of commons and indicates the immanent political rationality patterns of the debates. Furthermore the intellectual history of predominantly political and economical logics is told and it is presented why and how these logics destroy commons. Ambivalence of public and private property is demonstrated using forests as an example. Finally the theory and practice of commons, communing and commoners is outlined.
Uta von Winterfeld, Adelheid Biesecker, Christine Katz, Benjamin Best:
Welche Rolle können Commons in Transformationsprozessen zu Nachhaltigkeit spielen?
Impulse zur WachstumsWende no. 6 (July 2012)