The Lens of the Commons

Procomum Institute
October 25–26
SESC Research and Training Center, São Paulo (Brazil)

In December 2018, it is fifty years since Garrett Hardin published The Tragedy of the Commons in Science Magazine. Since then, his influential article has become, on the one hand, a reference for the defenders of privatization and, on the other, a target of defenders of the preservation of common goods. In Hardin’s thesis, the human being is self-interested and has an exclusive focus on competing to maximize his gains.

Since the 1970s, the political scientist Elinor Ostrom has consolidated as the main intellectual adversary of this conception, demonstrating through empirical research that cooperative communities can be more efficient in preserving common property, destroying the myth that only private property or strong regulation prevent the destruction of a particular good. This view of Ostrom lead her to the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009.

In Brazil, with the publication of the translation of Commonwealth, written by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2016), The Common-Essay on the Revolution in the 21st Century by Christian Laval and Pierre Dardot (2017), and The Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici (2017), we have a new cycle of interest in the theme of the commons, which has returned to the attention of activists and researchers of the human and social sciences. Instituto Procomum has been commited to the agenda of the commons in Brazil since its beginning, as well as exchanging practices and reflections with commoners around the world.

In a quick definition, we define the commons as goods managed through self-governing communities. We can therefore refer to natural goods such as air, seas, rivers, forests, but also to knowledge, to the internet, to the electromagnetic spectrum, among other goods essential to humanity. The book The Common Among Us: From Digital Culture to Democracy of the 21st Century, from Rodrigo Savazoni, one of the Instituto Procomum founders and directors, launched by the SESC publisher in 2018, introduces this discussion in an introductory way.

The cycle of debates The Commons Lens will tackle this theme from different perspectives, calling for researchers and activists who have proposed readings and actions based on common goods.