Free, Fair, and Alive
296 Pages

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Free, Fair, and Alive


Gain access to the library to view online
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296 Pages

You can change the print size of this book


The power of the commons as a free, fair system of provisioning and governance beyond capitalism, socialism, and other -isms.

  • David Bollier is the Director of Reinventing the Commons Program at Schumacher Centre for New Economics
  • Silke Hilfrich is author, scholar and activist from Neudenau, Germany
  • Both have been studying and writing about the commons for two decades
  • Frequent speakers at conferences, colleges and policy advisors
  • David Bollier is the author of 14 books, Silke Hilfrich is author of 5 books
  • Commons are self-organized social systems that offer a fundamental change from capitalist political economies
  • This compelling narrative for change offers practical pathways to a self-government model that is fair and accountable
  • Non-ideological and jargon-free
  • Full of colorful stories and diverse examples of communing
  • Fresh, comprehensive and non-academic synthesis of contemporary commons writing
  • Examines the role of language in reorienting our perceptions
  • Explains communing as a relational phenomenon of living systems
  • Opens up a new discussion about the inner and social dynamics of communing

For readers of Elinor Ostram, leading political economist, Naomi Klein, and L. Hunter Lovins, people interested in new economics, systems thinking, and climate change. Activists, policy experts, commoners, sustainable economy advocates, transition town members, members of "adjacent political movements", academics of political science, economics, anthropology and sociology.

Amherst, Berkshire County, MA; Bay area, Hudson Valley, NY; Washington, D.C and Detroit, MI


  • Silke Helfrich has worked extensively in Latin America as head of the regional office of the Henrich Boll Foundation, and in Mexico and Cuba.
  • With Countries with particular interest in the commons are: Germany, Australia, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, India and the UK
  • David Bollier’s blog has an international readership of 100-150 visits per day
  • Silke Helfrich has organized several major international conferences on the Commons
  • The German version will be published April 27, 2019 by Transcript Publishers
  • It has been written for an international readership
  • The Henrich Boll Foundation will be doing publicity for the book that will be streamlined for all languages including audio and video content and live website events
  • The Foundation is also hiring a publicist to promote the book
  • Silke Helfrich will be touring the EU to promote the German edition, followed up by UK speaking events with both authors for the English edition
  • Translations are also in the works for Spanish, French and Chinese
  • Promotion will be done to UK publications and organizations with a specific interest in the Commons including:
    • Stir magazine (Jonny Farleigh-Gordon, editor; Dorset)
    • Red Pepper magazine (Hilary Wainwright)
    • Resurgence & Ecologist magazine
    • Gaia Foundation, London (Liz Hoskens)
    • The Commoner website (London; Massimo De Angelis)
    • Furtherfield Art Collective, London (Ruth Catlow)
    • School of Commoning (London, George Por)
      • Professor Guy Standing, SOAS, London
      • Professor Anna Grear, Cardiff University Law School
      • Schumacher College (Jonathan Dawson, head of economics department)
      • Bristol Festival of Ideas (Bristol)
      • Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary, Open Spaces Society, Henley-on-Thame
  • Will be promoted through the authors’ international commons networks

The power of the commons as a free, fair system of provisioning and governance beyond capitalism, socialism, and other -isms.

From co-housing and agroecology to fisheries and open-source everything, people around the world are increasingly turning to 'commoning' to emancipate themselves from a predatory market-state system.

Free, Fair, and Alive presents a foundational re-thinking of the commons — the self-organized social system that humans have used for millennia to meet their needs. It offers a compelling vision of a future beyond the dead-end binary of capitalism versus socialism that has almost brought the world to its knees.

Written by two leading commons activists of our time, this guide is a penetrating cultural critique, table-pounding political treatise, and practical playbook. Highly readable and full of colorful stories, coverage includes:

  • Internal dynamics of commoning
  • How the commons worldview opens up new possibilities for change
  • Role of language in reorienting our perceptions and political strategies
  • Seeing the potential of commoning everywhere.

Free, Fair, and Alive provides a fresh, non-academic synthesis of contemporary commons written for a popular, activist-minded audience. It presents a compelling narrative: that we can be free and creative people, govern ourselves through fair and accountable institutions, and experience the aliveness of authentic human presence.


Part I: The Commons as a Transformative Perspective
1. Commons and Commoning

Commoning is Everywhere, but Widely Misunderstood
What Island Is Not a Commons
Commons in Real Life
     Zaatari Refugee Camp
     Buurtzorg Nederland
     Community Supported Agriculture
Understanding Commons Holistically in the Wild

2. The OntoShift to the Commons
The Window Through Which We See the World
The OntoStory of the Modern West
OntoStories as a Hidden Deep Dimension of Politics
The Nested-I and Ubuntu Rationality: The Relational Ontology of the Commons
Complexity Science and Commoning
Making an OntoShift to the Commons

3. Language and the Creation of Commons
Words, Terms, and Categories
The Tenacity of Systems of Opinion; The Harmonyof Illusions
Language and World-Making
Frames, Metaphors, and the Terms of Our Cognition
Language Evokes and Sustains a Worldview
Keywords from a Fading Era
Misleading Binaries
How Commoning Moves Beyond the Open/Closed Binary
Glossary of Commons-Friendly Terms

Part II: The Triad of Commoning
Principles and Patterns
A Word on Methodology

4. The Social Life of Commoning
Cultivate Shared Purpose & Values
Ritualize Togetherness
Contribute Freely
Practice Gentle Reciprocity
Trust Situated Knowing
Deepen Communion with Nature
Preserve Relationships in Addressing Conflicts
Reflect on Your Peer Governance

5. Peer Governance Through Commoning
A Few Words About Governance
Patterns of Peer Governance
Bring Diversity into Shared Purpose
On the Origins of Peer Governance
Create Semi-permeable Membranes
Honor Transparency in a Sphere of Trust
Share Knowledge Generously
Assure Consent in Decision Making
Sociocracy and Consent-Based Decision Making
Rely on Heterarchy
Peer Monitor & Apply Graduated Sanctions
Relationalize Property
Keep Commons & Commerce Distinct
Enclosures as a Threat to Commons
Finance Commons Provisioning

6. Provisioning Through Commons
Make & Use Together
Support Care & Decommodified Work
Share the Risks of Provisioning
Contribute & Share
Varieties of Allocation in a Commons
Pool, Cap & Divide Up
Pool, Cap & Mutualize
Trade with Price Sovereignty
Cecosesola, or How to Ignore the Market
Use Convivial Tools
Rely on Distributed Structures
Creatively Adapt & Renew

Part III: Growing the Commonsverse

7. Rethinking Property
Me, My Freedom, and My Property
Property is Relational
Collective Property as a Counterpoint to Individual Property?
Possession is Distinct From Property
Custom as Vernacular Law
Inalienability: A Crucial Concept for Commoning
Rediscovering the Power of Res Nullius
Property and the Objectification of Social Relations

8. Relationalize Property
Decommodifying a Supermarket
Why Relationalize Property?
A Platform Designed for Collaboration: Federated Wiki
Neutralizing Capital in the Housing Market: The Mietshäuser Syndikat Story
Hacking Property to Help Build Commons
Platform Cooperatives
Open Source Seeds
Commoning Mushrooms: The Iriaiken Philosophy
Building Stronger Commons Through Relationalized Property
Re-Introducing Meaning Making into Modern Law

9. State Power and Commoning
"The State" and "The People"
Equal Under Law, Unequal in Reality
Some Working Notes on State Power
Beyond Reform or Revolution
The Power of Commoning
Revamping State Power to Support Commoning
Catalyze & Propagate
Establish Commons at the Macroscale
Provide Infrastructures for Commoning
Create New Types of Finance for the Commons
Commons and Subsidiarity
What about Fundamental Rights Guaranteed by the State?

10. Take Commoning to Scale
Charters for Commoning
Distributed Ledgers as a Platform for Commoning
A Brief Explanation of Hash and Hashchain, Blockchain, and Holochain
Commons-Public Partnerships
Commoning at Scale

Appendix A: Notes on the Methodology Used for Identifying Patterns of Commoning
Appendix B: Visual Grammar for the Pattern Illustrations
Appendix C: Commons and Commoning Tools Mentioned in This Book
Appendix D: Elinor Ostrom's Eight Design Principles for Successful Commons and Commoning Tools
About the Authors
A Note About the Publisher



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Published 03 September 2019
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EAN13 9781771423106
Language English
Document size 1 MB

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