A commons-based map of economic realms

A mapping proposed by the Co-Intelligence Institute:

“These diagrams present economic dynamics in a concentric circles model which frames human economics as functioning within – and dependent on – the larger economies of nature – what might be called the natural and spiritual commons. It also presents a layer of human commons within which the community economics of gifting and sharing take place. It suggests that exchange – which currently dominates our conceptions of economics – is properly conceived of as only one smaller part of a much bigger economic picture, and that the monetized economy is even smaller than that. It further proposes that purely speculative economic activities that have no direct relationship to actual productive activity – abstract investments and trades that currently make up the majority of financial transactions globally – should be minimized or eliminated, or at least strictly managed where they colonize or harm the more productive sectors of the economy.

“The commons” is a sufficiently new concept as to warrant explanation here. The commons is a generic term embracing all that we hold and use in common. It is most readily understood as our shared lands, spaces, atmosphere, natural resources, natural systems and the “eco-system services” that those natural systems perform (like purifying our air and water). But it also includes our genetic heritage; our cultures, languages and institutions; our economics and politics; our sidewalks, streets, utilities, internet, and other infrastructure; our accumulated and co-created knowledge; and the human and social resources of our communities and relationships. Many people also believe that we share a common spiritual reality and heritage. In short, whatever we all have access to – or should have access to – is our commons. The economic view of “the commons” has been developing rapidly in the last few decades as we acknowledge how thoroughly we depend on the larger social, cultural, and natural bounty that surrounds and precedes us — and thus how we need to treasure, preserve, and support the commons as fundamental to our existence.”

The maps:


Mapping a commons-centered economy

A possible tomorrow:

Mapping a commons-centered economy 2

1 Comment A commons-based map of economic realms

  1. Øyvind HolmstadØyvind Holmstad

    These illustrations are very nice, and I’ve put them up on my blog. I will use them as illustrations for a future article for kulturverk.com,where I also plan to translate this text by Eisenstein into Norwegian:

    “Com­mu­nity is nearly im­pos­si­ble in a highly mon­e­tized so­ci­ety like our own. That is be­cause com­mu­nity is woven from gifts, which is ul­ti­mately why poor peo­ple often have stronger com­mu­ni­ties than rich peo­ple. If you are fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent, then you re­ally don’t de­pend on your neigh­bors—or in­deed on any spe­cific per­son—for any­thing. You can just pay some­one to do it, or pay some­one else to do it.

    In for­mer times, peo­ple de­pended for all of life’s ne­ces­si­ties and plea­sures on peo­ple they knew per­son­ally. If you alien­ated the local black­smith, brewer, or doc­tor, there was no re­place­ment. Your qual­ity of life would be much lower. If you alien­ated your neigh­bors then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle dur­ing har­vest sea­son, or if your barn burnt down. Com­mu­nity was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today, with only slight ex­ag­ger­a­tion, we could say we don’t need any­one. I don’t need the farmer who grew my food—I can pay some­one else to do it. I don’t need the me­chanic who fixed my car. I don’t need the trucker who brought my shoes to the store. I don’t need any of the peo­ple who pro­duced any of the things I use. I need some­one to do their jobs, but not the unique in­di­vid­ual peo­ple. They are re­place­able and, by the same token, so am I.

    That is one rea­son for the uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized su­per­fi­cial­ity of most so­cial gath­er­ings. How au­then­tic can it be, when the un­con­scious knowl­edge, “I don’t need you,” lurks under the sur­face? When we get to­gether to con­sume—food, drink, or en­ter­tain­ment—do we re­ally draw on the gifts of any­one pre­sent? Any­one can con­sume. In­ti­macy comes from co-cre­ation, not co-con­sump­tion, as any­one in a band can tell you, and it is dif­fer­ent from lik­ing or dis­lik­ing some­one. But in a mon­e­tized so­ci­ety, our cre­ativ­ity hap­pens in spe­cial­ized do­mains, for money.

    To forge com­mu­nity then, we must do more than sim­ply get peo­ple to­gether. While that is a start, soon we get tired of just talk­ing, and we want to do some­thing, to cre­ate some­thing. It is a very tepid com­mu­nity in­deed, when the only need being met is the need to air opin­ions and feel that we are right, that we get it, and isn’t it too bad that other peo­ple don’t … hey, I know! Let’s col­lect each oth­ers’ email ad­dresses and start a list­serv!

    Com­mu­nity is woven from gifts. Un­like today’s mar­ket sys­tem, whose built-in scarcity com­pels com­pe­ti­tion in which more for me is less for you, in a gift econ­omy the op­po­site holds. Be­cause peo­ple in gift cul­ture pass on their sur­plus rather than ac­cu­mu­lat­ing it, your good for­tune is my good for­tune: more for you is more for me. Wealth cir­cu­lates, grav­i­tat­ing to­ward the great­est need. In a gift com­mu­nity, peo­ple know that their gifts will even­tu­ally come back to them, al­beit often in a new form. Such a com­mu­nity might be called a “cir­cle of the gift.”

    For­tu­nately, the mon­e­ti­za­tion of life has reached its peak in our time, and is be­gin­ning a long and per­ma­nent re­ced­ing (of which eco­nomic “re­ces­sion” is an as­pect). Both out of de­sire and ne­ces­sity, we are poised at a crit­i­cal mo­ment of op­por­tu­nity to re­claim gift cul­ture, and there­fore to build true com­mu­nity. The recla­ma­tion is part of a larger shift of human con­scious­ness, a larger re­union with na­ture, earth, each other, and lost parts of our­selves. Our alien­ation from gift cul­ture is an aber­ra­tion and our in­de­pen­dence an il­lu­sion. We are not ac­tu­ally in­de­pen­dent or “fi­nan­cially se­cure” – we are just as de­pen­dent as be­fore, only on strangers and im­per­sonal in­sti­tu­tions, and, as we are likely to soon dis­cover, these in­sti­tu­tions are quite frag­ile.” – Charles Eisenstein



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