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Think Like a Commoner
A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons
The biggest "tragedy of the commons" is the misconception that commons are failures-relics from another era rendered unnecessary by the Market and State. Think Like a Commoner dispels such prejudices by explaining the rich history and promising future of the commons-an ageless paradigm of cooperation and fairness that is re-making our world.
With graceful prose and dozens of fascinating stories, Bollier describes the quiet revolution that is pioneering practical forms of self-governance and production controlled by people themselves. Think Like a Commoner explains how the commons:
- Is an exploding field of DIY innovation ranging from Wikipedia and seed-sharing to community forests and collaborative consumption, and beyond
- Challenges the standard narrative of market economics by explaining how cooperation generates significant value and human fulfillment
- Provides a framework of law and social action that can help us move beyond the pathologies of neoliberal capitalism.
We have a choice: Ignore the commons and suffer the ongoing private plunder of our common wealth. Or Think Like a Commoner and learn how to rebuild our society and reclaim our shared inheritance. This accessible, comprehensive introduction to the commons will surprise and enlighten you, and provoke you to action.
David Bollier, is an author, activist, blogger and independent scholar who has studied the commons as a transformative paradigm for fifteen years. He is co-founder of the Commons Strategies Group, co-director of the Commons Law Project, and a frequent speaker and strategy advisor. Bollier is an author and editor of six books on different aspects of the commons, including Green Governance, The Wealth of the Commons and Viral Spiral. He blogs at www.Bollier.org and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
"The Commons is among the most important and hopeful concepts of our time, and once you've read this book you'll understand why."
Bill McKibben, author Deep Economy
' Think Like a Commoner is a brilliant, accessible, practical, path-breaking intellectual tour de force. A defining contribution to the New Economy movement and an essential read for everyone who cares about the human future. I expect to return to it as a basic reference for years to come."
David Korten, author, Agenda for a New Economy, board chair YES! Magazine, and co-chair, New Economy Working Group
"Straightforward political and business models for a reconciliation of natural resources opens the door for social activists and common armchair readers alike."
br> Think Like a Commoner is a brief history and explanation of the commons, which are mutually held, collectively managed property. Though this concept may seem alien to modern eyes, managing commons is a long-held tradition that has included forests, water, air, and other natural resources that technically don't belong to anyone. David Bollier describes the history of the commons and projects its future as a possible fixture of modern life. His ultimate aim is to educate, but this extremely clear and fascinating work may serve just as well to galvanize.
This book stresses "enclosure," which some economists might recognize as "resource grabbing," as both a critical attack on resources and a primary cause of poverty. Resources once held in common, like British forests and California water, are attractive enough to perpetrators of business ventures that they tend to be unilaterally claimed, which is not necessarily fair to the people who once relied on them. The most strident example cited in this book is the British woodlands, which had supported a nation of peasants with free wood and food but were eventually claimed for the exclusive use of British aristocracy.
Bollier's statements against the destruction of common property are particularly effective in that they are backed up by facts, examples, rational argument, and compromise. Even dyed-in-the-wool capitalists may find themselves intrigued. Though he criticizes large-scale political and commercial structures for their role in the erosion of the commons, Bollier presents a number of useful ideas, as well as his own opinions, on how to reconcile the commons with current business and government models in such a way that everyone wins. This perspective is refreshing in activism, where even leaders are often all-or-nothing absolutists.
Think Like a Commoner is extraordinarily well structured. Though the concept of common property is hardly simple, Bollier's explanations, well supported by multiple examples, are so straightforward that even high school students will find this book easy to understand.
As an introduction to a massive topic, this book serves admirably as a quick review, an informative tract, and an appetizer all at once. While Think Like a Commoner won't make or break any experts, it certainly opens the door; interested readers will find plenty to fill their time with in the extremely comprehensive reading list included in the back matter."
Foreword Review - Spring 2014, Anna Call February 27, 2014
"Think Like a Commoner explores the commons in layman's terms, making it the ideal introduction for anyone wishing to learn more about what Bollier calls our 'shared inheritance."
Sharable.net, April 2014
If you are vexed by the question "What is to be done" here are at least parts of the answer.
Grassroots Economic Organizing Wolfgang Hoeschele
"The commons is truly the new paradigm, the missing third link for the reform of civilization. But the commons is not a thing, but above all the expression of a cultural revolution and of subjective changes. David Bollier has done a great job of explaining the importance of this great cultural shift."
Michel Bauwens, Founder, Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives
"Our world is in need of reviving an ancient wisdom if it is to survive. David Bollier has a beautiful, bold but practical vision for our commons future and lights the path forward. I love this book."
Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians; international water activist
"It probably surprises you to know that the wealth we own together as a commons is far more valuable than the wealth that we and corporations own separately. Corporations know this and have commercialized or taken control of what we the people own – such as the public airwaves, the public lands, our genes and trillions of dollars of knowledge (eg. research and development) paid for by taxpayers – for starters. For this and more you must read Bollier's brilliant distillation of the huge variety of commons and how we can take control of what we own in order to transform our economy for us, our posterity and the planet. Once you pick it up, you'll tremble with the excitement of what we all own in the form of the commons that somehow escaped our notice in our years of formal education."
Ralph Nader, Consumer advocate and author, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State
Building Sustainable Communities
A Community Approach to Independent Living
Twelve Principles for a Healthy Future
Towards a New World in the Yalakom Valley
The Insurgent Power of the Commons