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  • The Liberal Commons

    Vangelis Papadimitropoulos

    Chapter from the book: Papadimitropoulos, V. 2020. The Commons: Economic Alternatives in the Digital Age.


    Within this section, the author examines the liberal case for the commons through the perspective of leading theorists on the area. Elinor Ostrom, Lawrence Lessig and Yochai Benkler. All three place the development of the commons in parallel with state and market operation. They advocate for the coexistence of the commons with capitalism and the state. Ostrom’s work is discussed as focusing on the problem of collective action by elaborating the model of polycentrism. Lawrence Lessig and Yochai Benkler expand Ostrom’s work from the local to the global commons of the Internet and free/open source software. They introduce the term ‘digital commons’ to describe a non-market sector of information characterised by an ethic of sharing, self-management and cooperation between peers who have free access to online platforms. Benkler often diverges from classic liberalism by pointing to the autonomous development of the commons beyond capitalism and the state. Yet this underlying goal generally conforms to the liberal tradition. Discussion of the arguments of Cornelius Castoriadis and others stresses the impotence of the liberal commons in addressing the contradictions of capitalism and the state pointing to the ‘lack of the political’. The author argues in line with these perspectives that economic democracy is vital to underpin a digital commons.

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    Papadimitropoulos, V. 2020. The Liberal Commons. In: Papadimitropoulos, V, The Commons. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book46.b

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    Published on Oct. 20, 2020