Francine Mestrum

(via email August/Sept. 2016) - the concepts of common/s common goods and the common good are awaiting a clear demarcation - When I read ‘building an information-commons ecosystem … for the growing P2P/commons movement’ I wonder what the link is between information, commons and ecosystem and why that link is there? Does P2P production automatically imply commons? - If we are to get rid of ‘commodified labour’, what are people going to live from? - Is there a contradiction between re-creating communities and generating community value while also counting on a basic income that makes people directly dependent on the state? - The following is a quote from Francine's letter: "In much of the literature..., many assumptions are not explicited, many links are not explained and many developments are automatically considered positive." -> I think it can help the movement to clarify its theoretical principles, -> I think "it can also help us to clearly define our rules and conditions in order to avoid the appropriation of our concepts by political and economic forces that do not share our desire to shape our future world in a progressive, democratic and emancipatory way." - social justice: the topic is rarely addressed in the commons literature -> Why? Is it a spontaneous and unavoidable consequence of a commons approach? - Why only talk about ‘community’? Many of the initiatives developed in the context of ‘social innovation’ – kindergartens, help for the elderly of for disabled people – take place at the local level. Repair shops, fablabs, urban agriculture as well. While these initiatives can indeed be very positive, one wonders ... - What is their link – or should be – with the larger society? - Especially in the area of social policy, the desire to self-organize and self-manage care can certainly have negative consequences. Not all people have the necessary networks or families to receive the much needed help, the risk of exclusion of some people is real. -> - about the tension btw. commoning and what Francine calls "the institutional approach": We all do have social rights and the state has a duty to respect and fulfil these rights. An institutional approach, if democratically organized, can give much better care than the non-professional help of neighbours. These rights are also universal, so no one can ever be excluded and the care given from one village or city to another should be comparable. - We are not all endowed for agricultural (or other) activities. How to deal with it from a commons perspective? I am rephrasing a few questions here as Francine was obsessed with the idea that everything is about local communites: - Does the limitation to local communities also define the boundaries of what we can do? - Local communities certainly are not necessarily peaceful or non-hierarchical? What does it mean for commons thinking/theory? - I have grown up in a ‘community’, do certainly not want to go back to it. - The shift from communities to societies has accompanied a division of labour. Why should we reject this? (hmm, but who rejects the division of labour?) - This is a heavy one: "It sometimes sounds like a self-provisioning polpotisation of our societies." (everything suggests, that she was reading p2p stuff and I share some of the concerns,especially the one abt the hidden assumptions): "The reference other authors make to ‘transnational tribes’, especially for the design and knowledge production and exchange do not reassure me." - Does the commons approach go beyond this ‘community’ level? And if so how? A new economy born within the old? ... "the system is more powerful than ever, even if the financial system remains vulnerable" -> so is the strategy "group withdrawal from the system?". One may wonder whether that is possible and even desirable? -> or is it "change power relations within society and work at progressive reforms in order to hollow out the capitalist system". The latter doesn't mean abandoning markets, commodities and money, but to withdraw some goods and services from the commodity market, as well as democratizing societies - the self-managed factories that existed as well as the collective domestic work initiatives have all been abandoned after some time, for several reasons... and now? - This is an easier one to respond: "the commons-produced ‘things’, whether it be knowledge or material products, will still have to find ‘customers’ to use them. Only in the local community? Transnationally? How to value and price them? How to compete with the existing capitalist corporations?" - What about private property? Can it exist in a world ruled by commoners? Can public property be an alternative, knowing the sad experiences of the socialist past? - Is it enough to limit and democratize the rights linked to private property? Or should we think of a totally different ownership regime? - Does "decommodification of labour" mean an end to wage labour? To what extent the fordist model implied already a way to decommodification of labour? - How to guarantee respect of labour rights and avoid exploitation and self-exploitation? - What kind of state do we want?: How our world of seven billion people is going to function without public authorities. I think it cannot. Her position: "But it is beyond any doubt that we do need a state, not only for internal and external conflict resolution, for defining the framework within which commons can function but also for taxes and redistribution, for public health and public transport, for guaranteeing our universal human rights and for promoting freedom and equality." (then she refers to the "partner state" idea as "working alongside with citizens" --- "States are very much needed for organizing a decent social protection, even if citizens will have to be closely involved in the design and practice of the system." - Building commons-based ecosystems? But how can it happen? Many authors seem to think it will be a spontaneous development, and all commons initiatives naturally are eco-friendly? But why would they be? What about P2P networks ignoring extractivism? What about networks of people travelling all over the world? - Do we all agree with the statement that ‘the methodology of nature itself favours the commons as a stable self-sustaining paradigm’? - What about rightwing commons? All previous questions boil down to this difficult one: why do most of us assume all commons will be progressive and emancipatory?-> Just imagine the kindergartens for white children, or the faith-based school programmes that limit children’s learning capacities? - What about commons in the extractivist sector, think of mining cooperatives? - What is the difference between the commons-based – libertarian - communities and the chartered cities emerging in the South? - Certainly, the self-determination, self-management and autonomy of people are very valuable objectives, but there is no reason to think that they necessarily lead to eco-friendly or emancipatory practices. - it's not enough to look into our inner selfs -> "We will never avoid conflicts but have to look for ways and rules to peacefully live together." -> Answer: Correct: One might even say, commoning derives from the necessity of dealing with conflicts at any time". - How do commoners deal with the existing power relations? (my translation)