Remaking the Commons

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Guest Editors: Matthew MacLellan and Margrit Talpalaru

It is difficult to think of a political concept that has been as impoverished by decades of neoliberalization as “the commons.” It is has been almost four years since approximately three decades’ worth of market deregulation culminated in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and aside from the initial reverberations of a global occupation movement, centered in Wall Street, there seems to have been very little recognition that the health of any society should be measured from the ground up, not the top down. Instead, that unique brand of shortsightedness peculiar to capitalist development continues unabated as the profitability of transnational financial institutions continues to take precedence over the general welfare. Pensions, education and health care are everywhere slashed in order to maintain the best environment for the source from which all that is good in the world issues, capital investment. More often than not, it seems as if the only form of the commons that has retained its force in today’s political environment is that particular “common sense” that reduces the heterogeneity of our social and political existence to the narrow metrics of the market. Yet it is precisely in reaction to this ongoing state of affairs that the commons has re-emerged in recent years as a defining concept across a wide field of social struggles. Whether enunciated in the context of economic justice, environmental sustainability, anti-militarism or internet freedom, the overarching applicability of the commons as a tool of protest across diverse fields of struggle suggests a greater collective protest that extends beyond the critique of economic privatization and exploitation: the importance of a reinvigorated notions of the commons is evidence of a more profound rejection of all forms of power that thrive in the multifarious spaces of social, political, economic and cultural partition.

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