Economics and the Common(s): Conference Report
One of the most significant impediments to positive social change is the entrenched power of market-fundamentalism as an economic and political paradigm. The prevailing dogma is that only a scheme of individual self-interest, expansive individual property rights, market exchange and globalized free trade can advance human well-being. This view has increasingly been called into question as the predatory dynamics of the market economy became clear and as its threats to the biosphere have become more acute.
In May 2013, more than 200 activists, academics, and project leaders from more than 30 countries converged on the headquarters of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin, Germany, toparticipate in a conference, “Economics and the Commons: From Seed Form to Core Paradigm.” The event sought to open up some new vistas in politics, economics and culture by exploring the commons as an alternative worldview and provisioning system. The commons is drawing growing interest because its workings – in managing natural resources, urban spaces, civic life, the Internet, and many other realms – demonstrate that commons can provide stable, equitable and ecologically benign alternatives to conventional markets. The conference was hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in cooperation with the Commons Strategies Group, The Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation and Remix the Commons.
Because so many rich and complicated ideas emerged over the course of the conference, we have decided to prepare a report that distills the more exciting, significant ones. While no account of a conference can be fully comprehensive, we believe that this report can serve as a useful guide to people interested in the commons as a robust, growing movement. The report provides a general summary of the keynote presentations and outcomes of five conference streams as well as accounts from many self-organized side-events held before and during the conference. This report also points the reader to many valuable resources generated by the conference, most notably the ECC communications platform – http://commonsandeconomics.org – and a wiki that profiles dozens of economically minded commoners whose work focuses on the themes of the ECC.
The working method of this report is to summarize the general content of each keynote presentation and conference stream, with verbatim excerpts of the more interesting aspects of the proceedings.