Thinking about the Next System: David Bollier on the Commons


The Great Sandy Desert (Ngurrara) as viewed by the original Australian inhabitants of northern Western Australia. Bollier included this “map” in his presentation to illustrate the difference between a commons-based interpretation of a place that prioritizes cultural and ethical values and a scientific map that is all about geographic and topographic accuracy. For more on the Ngurrara map. See this page.

At a lunch seminar at the Next System Project last week, David Bollier reviewed some of the  work he has done on the various expressions and formations of “the commons.”  It’s a fascinating area of inquiry that offers a helpful way to think about how a more just and humane economic and social system can counter the hegemony of the market in capitalist societies. This post talks about Bollier’s presentation and also draws from his paper Commoning as a Transformative Social Paradigm,  published by the Next System Project in 2016.

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Remaking the Message: Blueprint for a Progressive Economic Populism in 2018

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2018 promises to be a fateful year in the United States. If the Republicans can hold on to their majorities in Congress and maintain power in state legislatures, they will have weathered an intense storm created by the backlash to Donald Trump’s presidency and their own extremely narrow legislative agenda. On the other hand, if current projections of a Democratic wave hold true, there may be a chance for a new beginning and a reversal of the decades-long neoliberal agenda.

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Russiagate and US-Russian Relations

Russia scholar Stephen Cohen has an article up at The Nation in which he throws cold water on the entire story about Russia’s involvement in the US elections. For a view summarizing the substantial evidence of collusion and other Russian transgressions, see this article by Joshua Holland, also at The Nation. Instead of getting into the details of the argument, I want to focus on Cohen’s larger concern about the deteriorating state of US-Russian relations, but also the precarious way he is making that argument.

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American Democracy in Crisis

The degradation of the norms of democracy has been underway for many years, but its pace has accelerated since Donald Trump took office. The number of lies that issue from the White House and Congress on a daily basis dwarfs any truths they may happen to utter. This dishonesty undermines one of the very premises of representative government: that citizens, either as individuals or through elected representatives, can work together to address society’s problems and mediate conflicts of interest. For such an arrangement to have any chance of success, there have to be ground rules about acceptable behavior as well as a common understanding of the truth. Both are in short supply in our stressed republic.

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The Meaning of the Doug Jones Win in Alabama

In a July, 2017 article (How the Left Can Win in the South) that popped up in my Facebook feed, Paul Blest offers some basic principles to help progressives build power in the South. He starts off by describing the struggles of the Bernie Sanders campaign during the 2016 democratic primary in which Hillary Clinton received twice as many votes as Sanders in the southern states.

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Can Mueller Refuse to Be Fired?

What would happen if President Trump decided to dismiss Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, much as Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox during the latter’s Watergate investigations? Were that to happen, there is a fairly solid consensus that the US political system would have entered a severe Constitutional crisis. If a president can dismiss a special prosecutor investigating him and his campaign and get away with it, he would have succeeded in putting himself above the law.  

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Lessons from Sea-Tac: Rebuilding the Labor Movement in the 21st Century

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Sea-Tac Workers on Strike
Yasmin Aden, a former airport worker now with SEIU Local 6, center, claps as she and other supporters celebrate a $15 minimum wage at Sea-Tac Airport in the Gina Marie Lindsey Arrivals Hall on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015.

“For unions in deep trouble, straining to find a way forward in today’s reality of runaway corporate profits and mounting human impoverishment, the Sea-Tac experience points the way toward the great possibilities that exist in a reimagined labor movement.” – Jonathan Rosenblum

Over the past several decades with the decline of manufacturing and the worsening of labor law, organized labor in the United States has experienced a critical decrease in numbers and clout, begging the question: Can labor rebuild its strength in a period characterized by continuing de-industrialization and an increasingly hostile environment for organizing workers?

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CO2 Emissions Are Still Rising. How Can We Reverse Course Before It’s Too Late?

The COP23 climate meetings in Bonn two weeks ago provided a welcome opportunity for climate change to make it into public discussion. But the meetings themselves could not accomplish much. The value of the international framework–the Paris accord–was never in the text of the agreements themselves, which did not come close to getting the international community to commit to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, let alone 1.5 degrees C, which was mentioned as the better objective. The value of the Paris agreement was the international consensus–now partially broken by the Trump administration–about the pressing need to take big steps towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades.

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E.J. Dionne: Democrats, Stop the Sniping and Learn from the Grassroots

E J Dionne had an excellent op ed (“Stop the sniping, Washington Democrats. Learn from the grass roots”) in the Washington Post earlier this week arguing that the ongoing conflict within the democratic party about whether to move to the left or stay in the center is not just harmful; it is irrelevant to what’s happening in the country. He observers that “old arguments feel comfortable, but they’re inadequate for the moment.” Sort of like a moth-eaten T-shirt.

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What’s the Democratic Plan for Climate Change?

Last week, I wrote about two new publications published to coincide with the COP23 in Bonn that highlight the lack of progress in reducing global CO2 emissions. Adding to the grim picture, Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic (“Democrats Are Shockingly Unprepared to Fight Climate Change”) investigates the state of play among the democrats in Washington, the only major political force in the US that would seem to have the potential to take on the republican environment-destroyers. It’s a longish article that provides much useful detail about the politics that frame democratic options and decision making. Meyer’s findings are as bleak as the articles I mentioned yesterday and point to the same conclusion: the change we need will not come from our political system without massive grassroots intervention. Let’s start with his argument.

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