“Throughout the globe there is a blossoming of interest in the old idea of ‘the commons’. For many, it offers a radical escape from the all-too-apparent devastations of capitalism and the impoverishments of a world possessed by the idea of possession. For these commoners, the commons were not all lost with the European land enclosures of the sixteenth century, but continue to be produced, enclosed, and reclaimed today. For them, commoning implies an abandonment of the rule of ‘the economy’ that reduces us to hyper-individualised consumers, and more and more of the natural world to resources that can be bought and sold. It carries promises of more convivial, communal and enspirited relationships and transformations in the material quality of people’s lives. Defiantly utopian, as a first step, these commoners call on us to ‘clean our gaze’ so we can see existing commons and, more importantly, see the quiet revolution that is underway in actual movements of the common people.
This Special Supplement aims to introduce the efflorescence of commons activism and thinking to readers of the Community Development Journal. In addition to celebrating how the commons can enrich our perceptions of the present and possible, the contributors caution us to look critically at contemporary discourses on the commons, recognizing how some actually reinforce capitalism, albeit with a human face. The articles demonstrate a high degree of reflexivity, along with clear and critical assessments by commoners themselves of their own projects. In articles focused on contemporary urban, water, knowledge and traditional music commons in contexts ranging from South Africa, Bolivia and Ireland, commoning right here, right now is considered. True to the spirit of the movement itself, many of the debates taking place between commoners with different ‘common senses’ are explored.”