Commonism


ˈkɑmənɪz(ə)m

“a new radical, practice-based ideology […] based on the values of sharing, common (intellectual) ownership and new social co-operations.”

Distinctive, yet with perhaps an interesting hint, from “communism”, the term “Commonism” was first coined by Tom DeWeese, the president of the American Policy Center yet more recently redefined in a new book “Commonism: A New Aesthetics of the Real” edited by Nico Dockx and Pascal Gielen

According to their introduction:

“After half a century of neoliberalism, a new radical, practice-based ideology is making its way from the margins: commonism, with an o in the middle. It is based on the values of sharing, common (intellectual) ownership and new social co-operations. Commoners assert that social relationships can replace money (contract) relationships. They advocate solidarity and they trust in peer-to-peer relationships to develop new ways of production.

“Commonism maps those new ideological thoughts. How do they work and, especially, what is their aesthetics? How do they shape the reality of our living together? Is there another, more just future imaginable through the commons? What strategies and what aesthetics do commoners adopt? This book explores this new political belief system, alternating between theoretical analysis, wild artistic speculation, inspiring art examples, almost empirical observations and critical reflection.”

In an interview excerpted from the book, author Gielen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel professor Sonja Lavaert, and the philosopher Antonio Negri discuss how commonism has the ability to transcend the ideological spectrum. The commons, regardless of political leanings, collaborate to “[re-appropriate] that of which they were robbed by capital.” Examples put forward in the interview include “liberal politicians write books about the importance of the basic income; neonationalism presents itself as a longing for social cohesion; religiously inspired political parties emphasize communion and the community, et cetera.”

In another piece, Louis Volont and Walter van Andel, both of the Culture Commons Quest Office, argue that an application of commonism can be found in blockchain. They argue that Blockchain’s attributes are capable of addressing the three elements of the tragedy of the commons, which are “overuse, (absence of) communication, and scale”. Further, its decentralization feature enables a “common” creation of value.

Although, the authors caution of a potential tragedy of blockchain by asserting that:

“But what would happen when that one thing that makes the world go around – money (be it virtual, be it actual) – enters the picture? One does not need to look far: many cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin among them, are facilitated by blockchain technology. Even though it is ‘horizontally organized’, ‘decentralized’ or ‘functioning beyond the market and the state’, the blockchain-facilitated experiment of virtual money relates to nothing more than exchange value. Indeed, the core question one should ask when speculating on the potentialities of the blockchain experiment, is whether it is put to use for exchange value on the one hand, or for use value on the other. The latter, still, is where the commons begin. The former (that is, the imperatives of capital and its incessant drive for accumulation through trade), is where the blockchain mutates from a solution to a tragedy, to a comedy in itself.”