Context - Patterns in historical settings

Chris Alexander regarded his architectural patterns as timeless - forms of material organisation that emerge in the built vernacular, again and again through generations of living, and generate an experience of profound rightness for those who live among them. This is a wonderful notion and an inspiring project. But it is not the nature of patterns of commoning.

Some commons - ancient, customary, natural commons - have endured for many generations, and constitute for the commoners an intrinsic sense of how it is right to live and to be, with one another and with the land. We moderns take inspiration from these where we can. But commoning as an #activist practice in the 21st century can fall back on none of this in any simple way. Like it or not, commons must be made; and held against antagonistic forces; and 'lost' customary or natural commons must be fought for: claimed, not reclaimed. Nothing about commons is timeless in the face of voracious, extractive, globalising, enclosing forces of economic and cultural exploitation. The modern - post-colonial, post-Fordist - world is a world of advancing enclosures, resistance and new commoning.


There is a complex emotional balance to be found here, which we can look at in another thread - it arises within landscape §3, the landscape of the heart-mind.

Commoning is a politics in a context of globalised, extremely forceful, formations of capital; and the development of capital and its crises is highly uneven. There is no one way of going about it.

Here are two aspects of historical and global context that we can consider:

  • Long waves. Capitalist crises (and restoring capitalist business-as-usual after crises, through investment in new forces of production) have been theorised by innovation economists in terms of long waves of technological and organisational innovation - for example, the regime of #Fordism that was established in the first half of C20. On this basis we can think about patterns of commoning in relation to where - within in a historical succession of geographically rippling, unevenly developing, post-post-Fordist crises and post-crisis settlements - a practice of commoning is being engaged in, and what formations of capital are in contention. See Formations of capital, post-Ford.

  • Progressive political formations. The movement for the commons has no option but to be #pluriversal. One aspect is that it must be woven from threads of differing political traditions, broadly progressive. Not all have the same kind of orientation to commons, so it’s worth developing a sense of what kind of orientation to commoning might be expected from one tradition and another. One place to look at this is in the world of 'platforming' and other code-based infrastructures. See Platforms in a pluriverse.