Schumacher College Course – Towards a Commons-Based Political Economy: Rethinking State, Market and Civil Society

Course dates: Monday, 20 April, 2015 to Friday, 24 April, 2015 –

Michel Bauwens, John Restakis and Kevin Flanagan

The history of political and economic organization within capitalism has been the recurring fight over the balance of power between the state and the market, which has ended in a radical subordination of the state and the social good to private markets interests. But the alternative may no longer be a return to statism and a ‘strong state’ but rather a set of commons-centric alternatives based on the principles of co-operation and economic democracy

Indeed, the systemic crisis of 2008 has led to the emergence of alternative visions that need to be integrated in a radical vision of transition to a new kind of political economy. The first emergence is that of commons-oriented peer production, which allow local and global open knowledge, software and design communities to create shared commons that create direct use value for society, but also potentially powerful economic systems. In conjunction with the distribution of both machines and financial capital, a radical new vision and practice is emerging of a new mode of production that is both open, sustainable and solidary. The second emergence is the revival of co-operativism and the social and solidarity economy.

In the first part of this course, we will introduce the economics of the commons and peer production, and other forms of the ‘collaborative economy’ (Michel Bauwens), as well as the innovative forms that the revival of the co-operative and solidarity economy have taken after the crisis (John Restakis). In the second part of the course, we will move to policy and political concerns, as  well as the logic and outline of the commons transition itself, based on the ground-breaking experience in Ecuador around the transition to a ‘social knowledge economy’. The course will also be based on a process of co-constructing joint knowledge through the creation of our own knowledge commons.


Learning Outcomes

Alternative Economics & Sustainable Economics

Participants in this course will:

– Understand the history of the commons and the rise of co-operativism

– Understand the economic and social foundations of co-operative economics and the commons

– Acquire an understanding of how globalization has generated new forms of co-operative and commons resistance

– Acquire an overview of the emergence of new forms of commons associated with the rise of digital technology

– Understand how digital technology and the rise of open knowledge systems is transforming production, distribution, and consumption at local, regional, and international levels

– Acquire an overview of how new forms of co-operative and commons-based organization and values are the basis for a new vision of political economy

– Understand concrete examples of how these models are being used in practice.

Who is this course for?

This course will be of interest to activists and practitioners in social change movements; to policy makers interested in new forms of governance and public/social partnerships; to academics and students interested in the relations between information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social change; and to practitioners and advocates in the co-operative, commons, and sustainability movements.


Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens - Alternative Economics & Sustainable Economics

Michel Bauwens is the founder and director of the P2P Foundation and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. He writes editorials for Al Jazeera English. He is listed at #82, on the Post-Carbon Institute (En)Rich list (link is external). He is a founding member of the Commons Strategies Group (link is external), with Silke Helfrich and David Bollier, who have organised major global conferences on the commons and economics.

Michel is co-author with Vasilis Kostakis of ‘Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy (link is external)’ published by Palgrave Pivot in 2014. In Belgium 2014, he published the best-selling interview, with Jean Lievens, ‘De Wereld Redden, met peer to peer naar een post-kapitalistische samenleving’ (‘Save the World with P2P – towards a post-capitalist society’).

In the first semester of 2014, Michel Bauwens was research director of the (link is external) research group, which produced the first integrated Commons Transition Plan for the government of Ecuador, in order to create policies for a ‘social knowledge economy’. In January 2015 was launched. Commons Transition builds on the work of the FLOK Society and features newly revised and updated, non-region specific versions of these policy documents. Commons Transition aims toward a society of the Commons that would enable a more egalitarian, just, and environmentally stable world.

Michel currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

John Restakis

John Restakis - Alternative Economics & Sustainable Economics

John Restakis is formerly Executive Director of the BC Co-operative Association in Vancouver (link is external), a position he held since 1998.  His professional background includes community organizing, adult and popular education, and co-op development.

Restakis was Research Co-ordinator for the FLOK Project in Ecuador on Social Knowledge and the Social Economy and focusing on Social Infrastructure and Institutional Innovation. He does consulting work on international co-op development projects, researches and teaches on co-operative economies and the social economy, and lectures widely on the subject of globalization, regional development, and alternative economics.

Currently, John is an advisor to Syriza (link is external) on the Social and Solidarity Economy in Greece.

Restakis earned his BA at the University of Toronto with a Major degree in East Asian Studies and specialist studies in Sanskrit and Classical Greek. He holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy of Religion.

Books by John Restakis:

Seeds of Transition: Human Services and the Carting Society, Athabasca University 2014

The Great Revenue Robbery: How to Stop the Tax Cut Scam and Save Canada, Tax Justice and the Civil Economy, Between the Lines, 2012

Humanizing the Economy – Co-operatives in the Age of Capital, New Society Publishers, 2010

The Co-op Alternative: Civil Society and the Future of Public Services

Institute of Public Administration of Canada, 2001

Storylines: Oral Histories for Literacy

Ontario Ministry of Education, 1987

Kevin Flanagan - Alternative Economics & Sustainable Economics

Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan is an Irish activist and artist whose work focuses on the commons and P2P practices as paradigms for social change. After working as a volunteer for many years, Kevin now works full time with the P2P Foundation (link is external) as a community development and projects coordinator, he is also a regular contributer to P2P Foundation Blog and Wiki. In 2014 Kevin was part of the communications team for (link is external) a multi-disciplinary research project investigating the production of value in commons based peer production. Kevin also spent 4 months in Ecuador working closely as a volunteer with researchers on the FLOK Society project. Kevin has lectured and taken part in panel discussions on P2P, the commons and digital culture. Most recently at the Open Here Festival (link is external) and at FSCONS (link is external) In collaboration with Cultivate (link is external) and WeCreate (link is external) in Ireland he co-organised (link is external) a convergence on the collaborative economy. In 2011 in response to Ireland’s economic crisis he co-organized Reset Ireland, a public forum for citizen dialogue on issues of Government Transparency, Employment, Environment and Health. Active in the Irish hackerspace community in May 2011 he organized the Mindfield Hackerspace with a 3 day program of workshops, lectures and panel discussions as part of the Mindfield Festival of Ideas in Dublin. Kevin holds a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland where he specialized in photography and film. As an independent artist he has exhibited in Ireland and internationally, having his first solo exhibition at the Galway Arts Center in 2010. His work has received the support of the Arts Council of Ireland.

Find Kevin on Twitter: @flgnk (link is external)

Fee: £ 795.00 -Course fees include accommodation, food, field trips, materials and all teaching sessions.

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