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  • Series: Leuven Global Governance series x
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Michel Bauwens

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Samuel Cogolati and Jan Wouters

The main purpose of this book is to understand what the ground-breaking model of cooperation of the commons implies for global governance, especially in relation to the debate on the (non)-democratic nature, institutions, and legal underpinnings of global governance. The research on the implications of the commons for our system of global governance is still scarce. The book therefore aims to contribute to fill the gap between the study of bottom-up commons and global governance. Global governance, which stands for ways of problem-solving cooperation that take place within global networks of relevant stakeholders, is indeed gradually substituting itself for the democratic deliberation within nation-states and comes to have more of a say over what political projects ought to be prioritized. In an interdependent and globalized world, a fair and representative system of global governance will therefore be critical to protect and promote the commons. Hence, we submit that the commons cannot only be studied at the micro-level, where they often emerge. While it is true that decision-making processes for the commons are generally locally owned, the commons also represent at a more macro-level a ‘third way’ to overcome the extractive forces of capitalism and the top-down logic of states. In this sense, the commons have evolved into an alternative ‘paradigm’ to rethink the traditional private-public divide, and prioritize the ecological and human needs of communities over market and state. Following this broader normative interpretation, this book explores the democratic, institutional and legal issues linked to the commons for global governance today. Based first on the study of the commons as vehicles for democratization of global governance, then on the assessment of the role played by commons-based institutions in the current global governance system, and finally on a more normative interrogation around what international law ought to look like to recognize and support the commons, this book will provide its reader with solid foundations to look further into the introduction of ‘commoning’ practices into global governance.

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Pierre Dardot

This chapter claims that the ‘common’, in contrast to global public goods, implies a collective production of a good that is not up for appropriation. It suggests that the ‘common’ could be an alternative to current international economic policies and could have, in that sense, important repercussions on democracy in the global arena. This chapter expands on this premise and tries to outline the democracy of the global commons. Indeed, it seems that global commons require a kind of democracy that is different from that of the local commons. This chapter’s main argument is that if we wish to have any chance of halting and reversing the logic of cosmocapitalism, we have to institute a global democracy for the global commons. Only such transnational citizenship-in-action can give full meaning to this idea of cosmopolitics: politics for the world, as long as the ‘world’ implies what resonates in the Latin term mundus, namely, not the Earth as a planet and not the totality of individuals living on Earth but instead, the living connection between the individuals inhabiting in and on the Earth itself. In this sense, the anti-globalization slogan ‘the world is not for sale’ is more meaningful than it might seem at first sight: the world, in itself, is not a ‘thing’ that we can own; it must be recognized as inappropriable and instituted as a common. Instituting the world as a common cannot be understood as an extension of the nation-state or city-state models at the global level. The democracy of the global commons is irreducible to a mere change of scale. Instead, it requires a genuine collective political invention, which is based on the multiplication of self-government at all levels. What is at stake here is the confrontation between two diametrically opposed logics: whereas the logic of the commons is fundamentally plural, polymorphic, non-centred in nature, and the logic of state sovereignty as it was constructed in the West is intrinsically linked to an indivisible and absolute centre of power. The solution is not for several sovereignties to overlap on the same territory, as this would be incompatible with the very notion of sovereignty, but for several types of self-governments to limit each other’s power reciprocally.

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Nicolás Brando and Helder De Schutter

This chapter analyses Pierre Dardot’s institutionalization of the commons as a federal political project. Through the use of the literature on the political theory of federalism, we assess the credentials of his federalist programme, arguing that his refusal to grant salient competences and authority to central institutions makes his proposal more of a confederal or treaty-based argument, rather than a federal system. Based on this assessment, we present three connected concerns with his proposed system of governance of the commons, arguing that it is not fully able to deal with the global problems that it intends to tackle. We consider that solidarity at higher levels is currently not stable enough to protect global commons; that the absence of shared rule (through state-like authorities) in Dardot’s federal proposal cannot fully protect common concerns more broadly than at the local level; and that the exclusive focus on the practices of commoning, disregarding seeing commons as goods, may enable unsustainable, inefficient, and potentially oppressive practices. We close by recommending a series of amendments to his proposal, in order for it to, first, be a truly federal political system; and, second, to ensure the protection of and access to the commons as both local and global goods.

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Christiaan Boonen

In this chapter, we will tackle the problem of political violence in the work of Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval. Eventually this leads to a more general reflection on the politics of violence in the commons literature. In the first section of this chapter we determine which concept of politics is present in the revolutionary politics of Dardot and Laval and show that they cannot account for the relation between politics and violence. More specifically, we will construct a brief genealogy of the concept of political power inherent in the concept of the common. This is done in order to show how this concept of power makes the violence/non-violence dilemma disappear before it can rear its head. This view will then be confronted with Étienne Balibar’s work on the concept of civility, which places precisely these questions at the centre of the politics of social transformation. In the second section we sketch the dynamics of power and violence that result from a conflict between the state and the politics of the common. We do this in order to show that political violence is a problem that should be accounted for in the commons literature. In the final section, we explore the role violence can play and, more importantly, should not play in a revolutionary situation. This will lead to a concluding reflection on the role of self-defence in the politics of the common.

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Pierre Sauvêtre

The aim of this chapter is to lay the groundwork for this critique by establishing a distinction between Ostrom’s commons and the common. Such divergence can be drawn from a comparison between distinctive ‘pro common(s) (goods) politics’, such as the Ostromian developmentalist policy of the commons, on the one hand, and the Water War in Bolivia, the Italian beni comuni movement, or the Catalonian politica del comú, on the other. By ‘pro common(s) (goods) politics’, this chapter refers to practical and theoretical ensembles produced by the mutual constitution between theoretical research on common(s) (goods) and the discursive or non-discursive practices of actors (social movements, political organizations, institutional actors) who claim to follow these principles, and that have taken the form of organized movements aiming at the implementation of the common(s) (goods). At first glance, these ensembles share similar characteristics that warrant comparison: a lexicon of the common (common goods, commons or the common), the preference for a third way distinct from the market and the state, as well as self-governing and self-organizing practices. Moreover, what justifies the interest in these cases is that, as organized movements, they have reached a critical threshold, which makes them something more than a mere experiment restricted to a group of insiders. The two main parts of this chapter compare the Ostromian developmentalist policy of the commons with the mobilization for lo común (the common) in the context of the Water War in Bolivia. This chapter contends that, despite a seemingly shared historical background, the studies stemming since the 1980s from Ostrom’s work on the commons and their inscription within international development policies, have no connection whatsoever with the movements for the common that appear in the 2000s in the context of the wave of state neoliberalization. On the one hand, historical and sociological analysis shows that the commons refer to an intervention aimed at structuring the community-based management of resources in the Global South, and are intended as a shift away from public intervention by the state and towards a deepening of the market economy. On the other hand, such analysis also indicates that the common constitutes a social fact, an original practice developed by certain social groups, in states that favoured market players and ceased serving the public interest, based upon the exercise of a ‘social sovereignty’ within a non-state public space.

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Rutger Hagen and Christophe Crombez

In this chapter we try to find an answer to how governance systems for global commons are created and maintained by building a behavioural foundation for collective action. We do this by viewing governance as a public good that must be provided. Like all public goods, global governance is also at risk of being underprovided and subject to free rider behaviour leading to the degradation of a commons. Due to the sheer size and complexity of global commons those problems are aggravated. But solely following that rationale would lead to the acceptance that involved actors are unable to govern global commons collectively. This chapter moves away from that pessimistic view and, by using the classic divide between supply and demand, we identify the challenges and opportunities for global governance to manage commons successfully. Actors are influenced by their past experiences and norms and trust, reputation and reciprocity when we allow for actors to have longer time-horizons leading to the possibility for instating global governance regimes. Instead of understanding governance regimes as separate independent entities, however, in this chapter we view the governance of global commons as being linked to many other governance regimes in a polycentric setting. Through polycentricity the need or demand for governance can be better assessed due to increased possibilities for information sharing while governance, through linkage, can also be better fitted for specific situations on the demand side. The explanation of the workings of polycentricity provides the reader with a convincing explanation on how collective action problems on a global scale can be overcome.

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Maja Groff and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen

Defining the practice of the ‘rule of international law’ as a global public good is, with some exceptions, surprisingly scarce in the literature. Yet, an effective ‘rule of law’ at the international level may be considered a ‘meta’ or ‘core’ global public good, and as an equally fundamental part of global society, as it currently is in domestic, democratic societies. Furthermore, international rule of law is not only a key global public good in itself; it would also support both the provision of ‘classical’ global public goods and the preservation/management of global commons, and the very process of achieving it would be a common good. However, there is something disturbing about a governance system in which core actors (i.e., states) on the one hand can year after year adopt a range of new international norms and goals encased in those norms (e.g., binding multilateral treaties, as well as ‘soft law’ statements), in what might be considered as a manifestation of unity of thought and purpose in global undertakings; yet on the other hand, year after year, allow those core actors to escape (in large part) any formal accountability mechanisms for what they have not done to implement those norms and achieve those goals. Such a circumstance is antithetical to well-accepted governance norms which link legitimate governmental authority, normally associated with democratic forms of government, with the operation of the rule of law and the accountability of subjects to the law. This chapter will first elaborate definitions, in part based on statements made in United Nations’ fora on the subject, to provide an anatomy of components of the rule of (international) law, including perspectives on conceiving of the rule of law as a core global public good. It will then discuss two suggested accountability trajectories associated with building a meaningful global rule of law – ‘input’ and ‘output’ accountability – between states and other relevant actors, identifying some of the associated challenges and proposing various pathways to address them. This chapters suggests that strengthening such accountability trajectories would signal a further ‘democratization’ of the international order.

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Thomas R. Eimer

Global public goods are frequently defined in horizontally overlapping and vertically interconnected institutional arrangements. Liberal scholars usually assume that the malleability and procedural inclusiveness of regime complexes can mitigate at least the worst forms of power politics and hereby contribute to more inclusive global commons. This chapter challenges the analytical and normative optimism of the global governance literature and its functionalist underpinnings. It does not deny that sophisticated institutional structures may indeed at least partially compensate for relational power imbalances. However, it is argued that the search for common solutions remains embedded in a context of structural power relationships, which shape the negotiation context and thereby define the policy space even in the absence of outspoken pressure politics. Under these conditions, international cooperation may perpetuate and even reinforce the already existing power differentials both among and within states. By this, regime complexes may effectively expropriate less powerful actors and deprive them of their already scarce resources. This critique is empirically illustrated by the analysis of the regime complex on biodiversity, which is commonly portrayed as the world’s most advanced institutional framework to reconcile the sustainable use of natural resources, economic as well as scientific progress, and human (indigenous) rights. Based on the conceptual critique and its empirical illustration, the chapter concludes that regime complexes are less likely to produce global public goods but can rather be expected to create globalized club goods.

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Maarja Beerkens

The issue of open access to scientific research has become a prominent policy topic over the last decade in Europe, in the United States and in many Western and non-Western countries. Although countries attempt to address the issue within their national boundaries, it is increasingly clear that scientific publishing is a global industry and regulating it within national borders can have, at most, only a limited success. We can observe increasing international coordination emerging in the field. The strive for open access has become a ‘typical’ global governance challenge with hundreds of actors involved, different entangled narratives and norms, and various policy solutions competing for attention. The terms ‘public good’ and ‘commons’ come up often in the discussions on knowledge and research, sometimes in a neutral sense, and often as a normative statement to justify a desired course of action. The phrasing matters, though, as it determines not only the definition of the problem but also the menu of possible solutions. While the ‘public good’ angle tends to focus on the right balance between sharing knowledge and protecting it via intellectual property rights, a framework of ‘commons’ inspires to seek out an alternative, more inclusive and community-based governance system for academic knowledge. The aim of this chapter is twofold. It will examine the use of the concepts ‘public good’ and the ‘commons’ in addressing the issue of restricted access to knowledge. Secondly, it will analyse the challenge for open access as a collective action dilemma on the global arena, and it will evaluate the potential for replacing the current market-based structure of academic publishing with a self-governing system organized by a global (academic) community, as increasingly proposed within academia.