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Individual Paper: The Common Good in Common Goods

How the Commons can transform Capitalism

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My research explores the Commons within the context of the social and legal institutional character of the capitalist market. It explores commons, in its original historical specificity, as well as, its relevance and significance for contemporary debates. I analyze Commons both as property institution- social relations between people about resources- and also an early welfare institution- a rudimentary form of feudal provisioning of goods. I argue that commons in feudal times were more than a “thing”-the resource- but rather a mode of social life and a form of “governance” to supply communities with access to crucial access to shared resources, and their enclosure gave birth to modern private property- the ability not only to extract a use value but instead to extract a surplus- an exchange value- which I argue signified the transition to a new social form- capitalism. Part I of my dissertation (three chapters) is a critical analysis of the origins of capitalism both its social and legal institutional forms. It is theoretical and historical drawing upon the social theory of Polanyi, Marx, and contributions of Political Marxists (Robert Brenner and Ellen Meiksins Wood), combined with the Legal Theories of the American and Scandinavian Legal Realists. It is divided between “social institutional character of the market” and “the legal institutional character of the market” and a chapter devoted to a deeper reflection of the theory and method used throughout the dissertation in both critical (part I) and constitutive (part II) sections. Part II offers a constitutive analysis of the Commons as “common property institutions:” group property, building off of the theoretical work of Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld, marked by multiple entitlement holders who hold the privilege to use a resource, with non holding the ability/claim/right to exclude others inside the commons from the resource, while holding the ability to exclude others outside the commons, and none having the power to transfer. I apply this constitutive concept of “commons property institutions” to analyze diverse legal organizational forms concerned with the governance of fundamental resources: food, water, housing, nature, education/knowledge, and culture according to the values of The enhance joint decision making and broader access to goods, for those involved in the conversion, as well as, the consumption of a given resource. In some cases they may be the same (housing cooperative). In most cases they are different (public water companies and workers cooperatives for diverse goods). I look at the positive effect of these legal institutions on both workers and consumers in partially decommodifying access to goods fundamental to human life, as well as, in ensuring their ecological integrity for future generations to come.


Day: 2018-08-23
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: ABF (206)
Track: Critical Social Theories



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