Dialectical not hierarchical

Alexander’s pattern language was nominally hierarchical. This won’t do. A pattern language of commoning must be dialectical.

Alexander’s architectural pattern language - zooming-in from the spatially large to the spatially small - is in fact pseudo-hierarchical. The ‘higher’ coarse-grain levels - regions, country-and-city patterns, etc - which are presented as ‘preceding’  lower finer-grained ones, are in fact the ones that can’t conceivably be created de-novo. They must in practice be cultivated, tuned and bricolated over generations, on the back of enduring and evolving ‘lower’ orders of form.


However, patterns of commoning - as distinct from patterns of archtecture - manifestly are patterns of always-evolving, always sustained-by labour, historical practice, for which there is no ‘origin’ or ‘background’ frame, nor any relationship of one-way determinations between a ‘coarse-grain’ and a ‘fine-grain’. The architecture of the pattern language needs to be through-and-through dialectical.

David Harvey - economic geographer and Marxian dialectician - is rather good on this, and his theorisation is directly relevant to framing a pattern language of commons evolution. See these extracts: ‘Six moments in the social process’ from Justice, nature and the geography of difference (2009) and ‘A dialectical view of co-evolution across seven “activity spheres”’ and ‘Co-revolution across seven domains of co-evolution’, both from The enigma of capital and the crises of capitalism (2011).


Harvey identifies seven ‘spheres’ of evolution (six in his 2009 analysis) through which the uneven development of Capital's economy and capitalists' crisis develops, and through which - in a kind of long march through the institutions - a thorough-going resistance and revolution must also develop. These seven spheres are helpful in recognising practical domains and geographical locations in which patterns of commoning - as resolutions of conflicts - must eventually be found, since they represent (in a relatively simple and memorable way) the multiple and recursive circuits through which large and small conflicts and resolutions run, in geographical, cultural and personal space and historical-geopolitical time.

The FoP RoP pattern language can be seen as a way of re-theorising Harvey’s geo-spatial insight of uneven development . . the world is nothing, if not uneven! ‘Progress’ is uneven also.


Let’s settle down to this then, as historical, materialist, activist-realists . . and adopt a pluriversal, rippling back-and-forth, living relationship with forms §1, formations §2 and forces §3, across many locations in place and time? A design approach to this kind of 'pluriversal' practice is what the internal richness of the pattern language is for.