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  • Theories of the Intellectual Commons

    Antonios Broumas

    Chapter from the book: Broumas, A. 2020. Intellectual Commons and the Law: A Normative Theory for Commons-Based Peer Production.


    Noting the growth of academic interest in the concept of the commons this chapter introduces the main theoretical trends that have been formulated in relation to the analysis of the intellectual commons and their relation with capital. In this context, four families of theories are distinguished on the grounds of their epistemological foundations, their analytical tools with regard to social actors, social structures and the dynamics between them, their normative criteria and, finally, their perspectives on social change. Rational choice theories draw from the work of Elinor Ostrom offering a perspective of complementarity between commons and capital. Neoliberal theories elaborate on the profit-maximising opportunities of the intellectual commons and further highlight their capacities of acting as a fix to capital circulation/accumulation in intellectual property-enabled commodity markets. Social democratic theories propose the forging of a partnership between a transformed state and the communities of the commons and put forward specific transition plans for a commons-oriented society. Critical theories conceptualise the productive patterns encountered within intellectual commons as a proto-mode of production which is a direct expression of the advanced productive forces of the social intellect and has the potential to open up alternatives to capital. In the conclusion, of the chapter the four theoretical frameworks are compared, with the aim of formulating a strong theory of the intellectual commons evaluated from the standpoint of their approach to social change. Critical tenets from each theory are utilised as the bedrock for the moral justification of an intellectual commons law.

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    Broumas, A. 2020. Theories of the Intellectual Commons. In: Broumas, A, Intellectual Commons and the Law. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book49.c

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    Published on Nov. 25, 2020