SPECIAL ISSUE: COMMONS, CLASS STRUGGLE AND THE WORLD
A Tale of Two Conferences
Globalization, the Crisis of Neoliberalism and the Question of the Commons
University of Southern Maine
The two conferences on the commons held in 2004 in Mexico—the ‘AlterGlobalisation’ conference in San Miguel de Allende and the International Association for the Study of Common Property conference in Oaxaca—epitomized two contrasting approaches to the commons, the former seeking to explore its anti-capitalist ramifications and the latter to incorporate the commons as a means of repairing the crisis of the neoliberal capitalist project. The capitalist appropriation of the commons views property regimes regulating common-pool resources as offering different combinations of outcomes that can be measured by efficiency, sustainability and equity criteria. It programmatically rejects doctrinaire neoliberalism that assumes the superiority of private-property regimes throughout the society, including the management of common-pool resources. The anti-capitalist advocates of the commons see the struggle for a commons as an important part of a larger rejection of neoliberal globalizing capitalism, for it is the globally dispersed indigenous commons and collective intellectual production that face enclosure by a capitalism bent on commodifying the planet. These divergent discussions create opportunities for alliances with powerful reformist forces within capitalism and pose many political problems and require an even deeper understanding of the differences between a capitalist and an anti-capitalist theory and practice of the commons. We must become more precise as to what kind of commons will increase the power of workers against capital and what kind of commons would either be compatible with or even expand the power of capital over cooperating workers.
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© borderlands ejournal 2012