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David Bollier

Independent Policy Strategist, Journalist, Co-Founder, Public Knowledge, Fellow at the Tomales Bay Institute & Author of "Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth," Amherst, MA

Is the Commons a Movement?

The commons in modern times is under construction, or more accurately, re-construction. A mode of value-creation that has been largely ignored by mainstream economics, law and politics is surging ahead as a powerful new paradigm. Its vitality can be seen in countless permutations – on the Internet, in GNU/Linux and related software communities, and in new uses of the electromagnetic spectrum. Yet the commons as an ordering principle and cultural meme extends far beyond these domains. Leaders in academic science, libraries, environmental activism, developmental economics and indigenous peoples movements have also embraced the discourse of the commons. So have activists fighting the over-commercialization of daily life, the unfettered globalization of commerce, and genetically engineered foods and medicines.

Why is the commons so invisible to mainstream politics and culture, and yet so evocative and powerful for so many people? What shared principles are animating the work to reclaim/reinvent the commons in diverse areas? Do the new stirrings of thought, action and sensibility represent the beginnings of a larger political movement? If so, what challenges must be met? What new types of intellectual work, organization, activism, technologies, and artistic endeavors might advance the ideals of the commons? David Bollier’s talk will offer some speculative answers to these questions and assess the prospects of the commons as a movement.

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