If serious change within conventional politics seems futile, it is not just because capitalism has captured and corrupted our democratic processes. State bureaucracies and transnational markets (even if competitive) are often incapable of addressing many problems. They are too large, powerful, and remote. Too complex and legalistic. Too eager to shift responsibility and risk. Too beholden to institutional interests. It is no wonder that the System is failing to address many urgent needs— and why social cynicism and distrust are rampant.
With so much drift and uncertainty, the big question is where public trust and legitimacy will migrate. While autocrats skillfully exploit fear, resentment, and instability to rally a reactionary base, it is unclear whether the champions of liberal democracy can restore faith in a system so closely allied to financial capital and its traditions of exploitation (colonization, militarism, slavery, nationalism, caste, etc.). Can we imagine post-capitalist paths forward?
In the pages of The Commoner’s Catalog for Changemaking, we showcase the art, culture, and politics of commoning— the practices of talking with each other, coordinating work, experimenting, and figuring out solutions to shared challenges and how to make them local, distributed, and fair. It turns out that building a better future does not necessarily require that we go through the narrow channel of conventional politics and policy, though both surely have important roles to play. Commons-based solutions can originate right now, with us, where we live. They can even emerge, sometimes, in partnership with state authorities who understand the logic and ethos of commoning.
The point is that the commons is not some vague utopian fantasy or ideology. It is a social universe of actual projects meeting the serious needs of ordinary people. Commoning is a practical, transformative cultural enterprise.
Dozens of new-economy movements and projects have already taken to heart Buckminster Fuller’s famous line, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Instead of looking to (closed, concentrated, sometimes-oligopolistic) markets or to (centralized, unresponsive, sometimes-corrupt) state institutions, we counsel open-minded, good-faith collaborations with each other. We urge the building of alternative systems at appropriate scales. That is the way to build fair-minded, participatory solutions and infrastructures now.