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2 Commoning

A pattern language - Making the Living Economy


Curating, stewarding and enjoying of many kinds of commons, both customary and contemporary - a politics of commoning - is at the present centre of history: the radical ’sweet spot’ without which current, newly emergent, movements cannot be expected to come together into the transformation that we, the planet and the children’s grandchildren need.


What’s all this about? At two levels - commoning; and pattern language.

Pattern language

Pattern language is a powerful way of systemically framing practical legacy in documentary form, so that abilities to construct and curate certain kinds of things in the real, material, historical, practical world become heritable, communicable, locally adaptable, explicitly mutual, systematically available for improvement and expansion. Pattern language was evolved in the field of architectural practice in the 60s and 70s, but here we’re concerned with nothing less than the C21 remaking of life and work, under radically transformed social relations: Liberation, Living Economy.

The scope of this ambition means that this pattern language frames the conduct of an activist life. It does this via a repertoire of #literacies of living and making - seeing an activist life as a life of (re)production. It locates these literacies in a weave of living threads in the material world. These threads are the mundane practices of people in their everyday life and work; and the self-conscious practices of activists as participants in these. The fabric constituted by this weave - evolving, animated, continuously woven and re-woven - is thus the entire forces of production (#FoP) of society and species, comprising all the practices of all people at the present historical time. Yes, this is kinda large; but no smaller framing will do for the kind of work activists have to do at this time, with crisis on all sides: economic, cultural, environmental.

The fact that practices in history are what are being centrally engaged with makes this is a (historical) materialist language - a form of theory-of-practice and a form of activist legacy. Which is to say, practices are what history is made of; and the wholesale, systemic transforming of practices. The modern (metamodern) expectation is that it is now becoming possible to do this with intention, and to constitute freedom and wellbeing as intended conditions of living a life, for all people at all future times. Kinda large! But no smaller framing will do.


The literacies communicated in this language are those recognised to have been cultivated and mobilised by a generation of baby-boomers across 50 years or so, in many, diverse streams of libertarian socialist activism; coupled with, mobilised alongside and hybridised with those emergent in the last couple of decades.

The baby-boomer,  libertarian socialist strands significantly include

  • Capabilities in #facilitation (which I take to be one of the pivotal political discoveries of my own activist generation).

  • An engagement with what typically is called identity politics - but which I feel is more accurately expressed as a politics of personal (activist) situation with a seriously historical orientation.

  • A politics of knowledging: fundamentally concerned with ways in which knowledges are constituted and mobilised in (modern/postmodern/metamodern) society - facilitation being a basic engagement with this foundational issue of power, hegemony and class. Issues of the part played by the professional-managerial class, and the disabling effects of professions, are part of this perspective.

  • Containing this orientation to politics of knowing . . a larger frame of cultural materialist 'labour process' attention. This tendency of the 70s anticipated the 'turn to practice' of science and technology studies in the 80s and 90s. It's concerned with how work in fact is organised and done, with struggles over the 'real subordination' of labour (eg 'deskilling') and the practical, material production of hegemony and counter-hegemony, of oppositional and prefigurative FoPs.

  • A concern with liberation of persons and peoples, over and beyond the aspirations of our immediately preceding Left generations. This attitude was strongly anticipated in early decades of ‘associationist’ working class movements - during the C19 ‘making of the English working class’ - and became rather lost in the mix during the first two-thirds of the C20; and

  • An understanding - driven partly by emergent 'identity politics' and partly by deeply entrenched consumerism - that liberation is a matter of engaging and reconstructing the #heart-mind (the heart-mind of the activist included), as well as re-forming the forces of material production, and of knowing and organising. Root and branch. This is a big project, in Deep Time. But no smaller framing will do - the degrading ecosystems of the planet are telling us so..

In one way and another, I understand these to be aspects of oppositional and transformative practice arising within post-Fordist capitalism. The pattern language is thus a language-of-action for enacting the practice of liberation in conditions of #post-Fordist economy and hegemony. This is all good old baby-boomer, Whole-Earthy, libertarian-socialist stuff!

The more recently emerged movements include

  • Solidarity economy activism of urban poor and marginalised communities in both the global North and South.

  • Movements of resistance to precarious labour and precarious livelihood of diverse kinds, driven by the uneven sectoral and geographical development of capital: including enclosure and commoditising of 'un-owned' land, offshoring and migrant labour.

  • Peer-to-peer (#P2P) production (notably, globalised production of ‘free-libre’ software code and anarcho struggles to maintain autonomy in the digital web).

  • Environmental activism and indigeneity in very many locations and fields: the phenomenon highlighted in Paul Hawken’s 2007 Blessed Unrest; and

  • The movement for commons - or rather, commoning. Of which more, ad lib.


Thus, with these old and these new roots and dynamics, the language frames a dialogue across places, traditions and generations, with regard to legacy, and current possibility and necessity.

The dialogue is transgenerational also in another sense: it is oriented, intrinsically, to the wellbeing of the children’s grandchildren. The central theme resonating through this dialogue, and the language, is that libertarian socialist activism in the C21 needs to be oriented to making a Living Economy    (thread #1, this website); and that this action needs to be conducted as a new-fangled, metamodern, global-local practice of commoning  . . . the #curating, #stewarding and #enjoying of many kinds of commons, both customary and contemporary. That is, politics of commoning are at the present centre of history: the radical ’sweet spot’  without which the current, newly emergent, movement things cannot be expected to come together into the transformation that we, the planet and the children’s grandchildren need.

This intention is approached via patterns which characterise (small or large) ‘chunks of fabric’ in the forces of production (FoP), and which pivot - as templates for practice - on the(alternative0 relations of production (RoP) that these chunks (constellations of practices) embody, as purposeful alternatives to the currently dominant RoPs. Because of this FoP/RoP core, the language is referred to as foprop.

This part of the website

This part of the foprop website - 2 Commoning - comprises the following sections:

  • Architecture - Notes on pattern language and, specifically, a pattern language of activist practice.

  • Weave - Basic foundations of the pattern language, as a conceptual and narrative weave enabling engagement with a weave of practices that constitute forces of production of diverse, plural, interweaving kinds.

  • Narrative frame - The patterns and their mutual relations.

The intention is that, as far as possible, patterns make practical sense within this narrative frame and in their mutual relations, without the explicit preamble of architecture and weave, which are tacit (sometimes, explicit) in the patterns, and in the weave of the patterns.


However, at this stage of development, of this Whole Earth Catalog of activist literacies (!), explicit framing is needed to guide development. In time, the patterns, in their practical interweaving, will speak themselves: the language will become speakable/ performable rather than (at this stage) spoken-about; and developers/speaker-performers will not need the explicit scripting. While the pattern language is a language for the self-conscious historical ‘design’ of life and work under radically transformed social relations, at the present stage we also need to pay attention to the design of the language itself, and the relations that characterise a language and a practice of language-making, which might possibly be capable in meeting this challenge, in all its necessary dimensions. Beware, bootstrapping at work. Nothing if not reflexive!

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