World-Making in a Pluriverse

A commons is a process of "world-making". It brings an individual into focused, ongoing collaborations that in effect build a rich, shared, subjective and distinct "world." This world is not a universe but a pluriverse. A world where many worlds fit, to quote the Zapatistas, html .

This world is animated by the dynamic relationships of participating commoners, and it is reflected in the consensual systems for managing shared wealth, negotiating rules, ethical norms and self-monitoring, and the rituals and practices for sustaining a stable culture.

Precisely because each commons is unique, bearing the traits of its participants, geography, history, culture, and so forth, commoners realize that other commons are distinctive world-making projects in their own right. Commoners instinctively understand that the idea of a "One-World World" implicit in modern liberal capitalism (a term used by anthropologist Arturo Escobar), is a fatuous fantasy. The world is a pluriverse of many different subjectivities, social practices, peer-governance structures, and so on, because, as one Colombian activist put it,

"...we have to create our economies not from the outside coming in but the other way around: from the inside going outwards."

Commoners who "see" through the lens of their local subjectivity, see the very idea of "the economy" "from the inside." Despite radical differences among commons, commoners recognize a shared kinship around certain fundamental ideas -- something captured in the Dimensions of Commoning.

Escobar describes the everyday life of a father and daughter paddling in a canoe in the Colombian rainforest, and concludes that they inhabit "a dense network of interrelations" that may be called a "relational ontology." Their changing experiences minute-by-minute in a dense ecosystem of relationships embodies "an altogether different way of being and becoming in territory and place.... in which nothing preexists the relations that constitute it." (pp. 350-351, Patterns of Commoning) Capitalism seeks to superimpose its "One-World World" on the countless pluriverses that constitute the world, as a way to help capitalism thrive.

Escobar: "The notion of the pluriverse, it should be made clear, has two main sources: theoretical critiques of dualism, and the perseverance of pluriversal and non-dualist worlds (more often known as 'cosmovisions') that reflect a deeply relational understanding of life." (p. 355).

# Further Thoughts Once we move from seeing the world as a transactional economy to one that is a relational social world, two things become imperative: that we participate in co-creating this world, and that we bring our inner lives to the process. This is how world-making arises and how it will come to supplant "The Economy" as a totalistic worldview.

Once the paradigm of world-making is acknowledged, a logical corollary is that "everyone else is doing the same thing" in the context of their own history, culture, geography, etc. -- so *naturally* there cannot be a single World; there must be pluriverses. An ecosystem itself is a pluriverse of sentient, living creatures -- so why shouldn't humans acknowledge this and act accordingly, i.e., with humility and awareness that there are very different ways of being.

These themes are discussed in Brian Cantwell Smith's book "On the Origin of Objects," which seeks to develop a more reliable philosophical and metaphysical foundation for computation, artificial intelligence and cognitive science. Moving beyond the formal, received worldview, he instead argues for "an embedded, participatyory, 'irreductionist' metaphysical alternative in which is totally and completely particular.

Smith argues that we should not privilege objects as an ontological category or class (which then become the basis for modernity and capitalism. Instead, we should talk about how everyone sees the world in "different registers" even though there are deep, underlying regularities of a unitary biophysical world. But this world is not like an endless series of tightly interlocked gears, but rather embodies a great deal of "flex and slop" that our cognitive rationality and language cannot adequately express.

Smith concludes that we live in a world of "ontological pluralism sustained by metaphysical monism. There is only one world -- that is what was important about realism. But its unity transcends all ability to speak."

# Sources

Arturo Escobar, "Commons in the Pluriverse," in Bollier & Helfrich, Patterns of Commoning (Off the Common Books, 2015), pp. 348-360. htlm