Book of the Day: Triumph of the Commons

* Book: Triumph of the Commons: Fifty-Five Theses on the Future. Writer: Leland Maschmeyer Editor: Tonice Sgrignoli, Brian Collins. Publ. Collins, 2011

The publisher, a design firm, writes that:

“Triumph of the Commons is a collaborative book from fifty-five artists. It resurrects a disparaged, yet newly valuable, cultural narrative. Presented as fifty-five theses, this narrative challenges notions of prosperity: what it means and how to achieve it. Readers will find that each thesis offers practical implications for a range of concerns emerging in the 21st century.”

Co-author Stephen Heller:

“All the world is a commons and all its inhabitants are you and me. That sentiment echoes the utopian dreams of many great and not-so-great thinkers and doers. The concept of universal sharing has been the underpinning of successful and flawed societies alike. But such societies are not all alike: Modern nations, primitive tribes, cult groups all have attempted some form of commons – of sharing resources in various ways. Too many utopian dreams have become dystopian nightmares, perhaps because unless the commons is fervently supported equally by all citizens, regardless of rank or status, it is too easy to devolve into a dictatorship of the few.

I admire the 55 theses that are herein presented. Idealistic as they may seem, each proposes a practical opportunity to unite the increasingly divided segments of our society. Number 3 strikes the most harmonic chord: “This land is your land. This land is my land.” During a time of catastrophic strife, Woody Guthrie wrote an anthem that summed up the ultimate desire. America belongs to everyone who resides here. There is “you” and “me” – and we are different – but America: “this land is made for you and me.”

With Guthrie’s words as an entry point, the 55 Theses are suggestive truths and viable proposals of sorts, devised to keep us thinking about how to shore up our divisions. That designers were asked to interpret these ideas, aids all of us in understanding and concretizing by making visual, indeed universal, the concepts. Yet these are not the easiest concepts to visualize. Sometimes words better convey the idea. But what is clear from this mash–up of words and image is the underlying notion that only through collaboration can the commons work. Combining word and image, image and word is a symbol of two (and more) entities joining together for a common goal – a commons that might work for the common good.”

Go here for a text version of the 55 theses.

1 Comment Book of the Day: Triumph of the Commons

  1. Øyvind HolmstadØyvind Holmstad

    Thesis 40
    When people no longer recognize the enshrined past and choose to create a future, they have chosen to reject explanation and begin a story. Or as Ella Fitzgerald interpreted it: “It isn’t where you came from, its where you’re going that counts.”

    Reminds me about what the modernists did when they rejected traditional architecture and patterns!

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