Sent time:   Sunday, November 13, 2011 3:24:59 PM
Subject:   Re: Re: Re: [september17discuss] An OWS Seminar on the Commons?

 The idea of commons have a lot in common with market theories of public goods.  Can we find experts in that field and include them also.  Finding common (there's that word again) ground among the different economic camps could smooth the way toward actuall realization of this type of these spaces.
On 11/13/11, Leah Hunt-Hendrix<> wrote:
Hi everyone, 
This is from a friend who's heavily involved in Occupy London and who's done a lot of work on the Commons in the past from South Africa.  I sent him word this conversation was happening and here's what he writes:

Hi All, 

A friend of mine just forwarded this thread to me.  I'm a couple of
days late joining in, but I thought I would add a few thoughts on the
concept of the commons.

1) The meme is gaining considerable steam these days, with Hardt and
Negri's new book, "Commonwealth", Jeffrey Sachs' "Common Wealth",
James Scott's "The Art of Not being Governed", Peter Barnes'
"Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons", and of course
everything by Slavoj Zizek, etc... the list is long!

2) In 2009, a bunch of us Southern African activists, academics, and
civil society organizations convened a conference on the commons in
Durban, and launched a "Global Campaign for the Commons".  Since then
the idea has become attractive to folks in various oil-rich African
nations (Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda) who are looking for real
alternatives to the usual plunder-and-pillage model of resource
extraction.  Both Uganda and South Sudan are presently in the process
of considering new constitutions, and local resistance movements want
to see them organized around the idea of the "commons."

3) We dare not neglect these struggles in the so-called third world,
because that is where the resources that feed Western capitalism come
from.  They are the plundering ground, and we need to make their
voices central.

4) For those of you in the US, you should take a look at the Alaska
Model; the Alaska constitution includes a provision that states that
all natural resources are "owned in common" (not by corporations or
the state) and must be used "on the principle of sustainability" "for
the maximum benefit of the people".  The model has its problems, to be
sure, but it's a brilliant spark of possibility in what is otherwise a
bleak national landscape of corporatism.

5) President Grimsson of Iceland has recently picked up on the idea of
the commons, and has said that he would be tentatively willing to
mobilize his resources and networks toward whatever goals the campaign
puts to him.  I'm personally ambivalent about the utility of relying
on heads of state (even good lefty ones like Grimsson) to advance this
meme instead of a grassroots movement, but it's something that you
(we) could consider tapping into if need be.

I've been involved with this movement since 2009, and would be happy
to discuss any of this further with anyone who is interested.

All the best,

Jason Hickel

On Fri, Nov 11, 2011 at 5:31 PM, <> wrote:
Lol, It seems like the coordinators meeting is a little less formal, and not so tense as the newly formed spokes-council.
On 11/11/11, Snafu<> wrote:
Thank you, John. Are the coordinators meeting only to coordinate Zuccotti-related issues or is this also a meeting about things that happen off-site, as it were? I remember reading that the Spokes Council was also meant to "unleash the revolutionary imagination" or something like that...

On 11/11/11 11:57 AM, wrote:
The coordinator's meeting might be more appropriate, since this idea is not operational yet (the spokes council is about operations) .  The working groups coordinate every morning at 9am at 60 Wall st.
On 11/11/11, Snafu<> wrote:
I agree with everything you say, Vicente. I was wondering whether E&E would be interested in circulating a proposal for this Forum at the Spokes Council. We could draft a 1-page proposal, asking all the groups who are interested in participating to suggest questions + speakers.

On 11/11/11 12:19 AM, Vicente Rubio wrote:
Great ideas Snafu. I think a wiki or such kind of tools would be great for this. And I also agree on the need to focus on our needs as a movement. How every WG relates to the question of the Commons would be a fantastic starting point.

What I can do is just to present this idea to the Empowerment and Education wg. Again, just as an initiative that is going on externally to the group (in the very same way as a person in, say, Food, or Alternative Economics, or any other group, would do) not to assign this project to any particular group. That would help to recruit participants and collaborators. Besides that, I just wanted to point out that there are many subcommittees within E&E that surely will love to participate in this: Movement Strategy, Think Tank, Nomadic University, etc., as there are tons of other subcommittees in other WG that will like to participate as well.

All the collaborators coming from different wg, could then initiate a discussion (in the wiki?) and maybe set up a document to be send to possible speakers. Following what Snafu said, it would be great to have a very concrete, defined discussion, a real dialogue between participants. That would make the event really productive in political terms.

BTW: The Hardt/Negri video was intended only in terms of format suggestions. Actually, I'm not really concerned about speakers. All of those included in Shaista's list are amazing, and will give us an amazing input. I'm more concerned on what specific type of discussion/communication could we establish with them. Precisely in order to channel and use this input in the most productive way possible.


2011/11/10 Snafu <>
Hey thank you for sending all the names and suggestions. I would try and invite speakers depending on the questions we want to pose. If we want to be strategic we have to use this knowledge as a knife, to cut through the specific problems we face.

So for instance, how is Empowerment & Education dealing with the question of the Commons? And Urban Planning? And Food or OSS? I would try to decentralize these questions as much as possible. And invite the speakers on the basis of our needs and with the clear goal in mind of drafting a document-- perhaps something along the lines the Charter for Innovation, Creativity, and Access to Knowledge drafted by the Free Culture Forum in Barcelona (

I also think that a Wiki would be much more appropriate than this list for this prep work. Before launching the Wiki, I would make sure that enough people are involved. Ideas on how to ask for input to the various groups?

I am beginning to test Jan 13-15 as possible date so that we have a couple of months to prepare it. It's a good weekend because most schools haven't started yet and people are back from winter breaks.

On 11/10/11 11:09 PM, shaista husain wrote:
Thanks for this video ---Hardt and Negri are in the marxist camp, but also have a few economist, just as famous--we should have a wide spectrum of dialogue--a dialogical relational and dialectical approach to questions of the Commons and Critique of Imperialism.
Some economists that exchange and share ideas --i would like to see present here
David Harvey from CUNY
Paul Mattick Jr
Alex Callinicos

Also perhaps RJ, should suggest some economists since he has been posting quite a bit from three worlds theory
Aijaz Ahmed
Vijay Prashad

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 9:24 PM, Vicente Rubio <> wrote:
The video I just sent is in Spanish, no subtitles, sorry. Well, and a bit of Italian, when Negri speaks :)

2011/11/10 Vicente Rubio <>
While reading the messages I remembered a recent event on the 15M movement with Hardt and Negri that took place in Spain a few weeks ago. I specially liked the format. Instead of them giving a talk, they formulated some questions. The the audience discussed and answered those question, and only at the end of the meeting Hardt and Negri shared their conclussions.

This is the first part out of 5.

Just as suggestion for the discussion on possible formats.

Next meeting of the Empowerment and Education WG is tomorrow. Should I present some kind of initiative concerning this? Not that this is going to belong to that specific WG, but just maybe present the idea and asked for people interested on this project. Would this be a good idea? Let me know what you think.

2011/11/10 <>

Maybe we need a 'Commons Committee' to work the idea out in greater detail?
On 11/10/11, shaista husain<> wrote:
I very much love the way Snafu has suggested this to be forum towards action and concrete proposals. I would further add that what comes out of such a forum be further passed along for endorsments by other occupations, perhaps allowing these collective proposals to be examined by environmental, lawmakers, policymakers, community activists, civil groups, labor groups, undocumented workers, immigrant groups, coalitions representing progressive change. THis is coalition building that can come together through mutual sharing of information in a way that we encourage the movement to grow rather than impose our "demands" upon the world perhaps a better word is "charter" and we act within our principles of solidarity, allowing these proposals to a "living document" as we have attempted of all our declarations--atleast in theory.

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 4:18 PM, Snafu <> wrote:
Thank you all for the amazing feedback. And Vicente, of course we should heavily involve Empowerment and Education in this.

I think we should take our time to organize it. Actually, it would be interesting to structure it not as a seminar, but as a forum in which we invite our experts to answer specific political questions we have discussed in advance. We should also establish a specific outcome--such as producing a document containing a series of concrete proposals.

Here are some preliminary questions we could ask:

--What are existing models of commons that work and offer themselves as models and which ones don't. (For instance, we could invite speakers from Cochabamba, Bolivia to ask them how they manage the water in common)

--What are the major political obstacles to reclaiming some resources as commons?

--Is it possible to think of a national and international campaign to reclaim the ground waters as commons? If so, how can we organize it? What other campaigns could be immediately related to it?

--Should we treat the natural commons in the same way as we treat the information commons? Does it make sense to think of information as over-abundant and natural resources as scarce? And what are the political consequences of thinking and acting along these lines?

Please add your questions and ideas!

On 11/10/11 2:22 PM, rob hollander wrote:
I hope on a Saturday afternoon when I'm free to attend!
And tape it, of course --

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 12:40 PM, shaista husain <> wrote:
If the seminar can't be held at the Atrium, i would ask to please try to make it happen at Cooper Union--or CUNY, since free education has long been held as an important part of the Commons--the production of knowledge.

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 12:33 PM, Vicente Rubio <> wrote:
This would be amazing! I'm sure people from the Empowerment and Education WG and the Nomadic University (an idea strongly based on ideas on the Commons) would be glad to help in this.


2011/11/10 aaron gemmill <>
Yes please!

Sent from my iPhone

On Nov 10, 2011, at 10:20 AM, Snafu <> wrote:

> dear all,
> given the super-interesting discussion we are developing right now I was wondering whether this list would be interested in putting together a seminar on the Commons.
> We could invite theorists such as Michael Hardt, Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis and Elinor Ostrom, plus anyone interested from the OWS Working Groups to see whether we could set this debate in motion--i.e. use it for developing both a strategic vision and multiple lines of action.
> If there is a shared interest I can contact a few of them and see whether we can find an adequate space to hold the seminar.
> Snafu

Rob Hollander
Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development
622 E 11, #10
NYC, 10009