Drawing on partial examples such as the co-owned energy company in Wolfhagen, Germany, we provide an outline of what we call a Public-Common Partnership (PCP). PCPs offer an alternative institutional design that moves us beyond the overly simplistic binary of market/state. Instead, they involve co-ownership between appropriate state authorities and a Commoners Association, alongside co-combined governance with a third association of project specific relevant parties such as trade unions and relevant experts. Rather than a mono-cultural institutional form applied indiscriminately PCPs should emerge as an overlapping patchwork of institutions that respond to the peculiarities of the asset concerned, the scale at which the PCP will operate (whether it be city-region wide energy production in Greater Manchester or the commercial activity of a North London market), and the individuals and communities that will act together as commoners.
PCPs can help address challenges of political risk and economic cost, enabling more innovative and “risky” initiatives. However their real strength comes from setting in motion a self-expanding circuit of radical democratic self-governance. The aim of this circuit is to bypass the need for private financing and sidestep the mechanisms through which finance capital exercises its discipline and structures the economy. PCPs will function as a “training in democracy” and help foster a new common-sense understanding of how we relate to one another. They are a method for “taking back control” of the infrastructures and resources that underpin our collective well-being – from food markets to water basins – while increasing our collective ability to fight for the wider structural changes in our society and economy that are so urgently needed – from a reduction in the working week to the implementation of a comprehensive Green New Deal.
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