Individual Paper: The Multiplicity of the Commons
An Ontological Perspective on the Tragedy of the Commodity
One of the main concerns motivating the degrowth movement is the ongoing depletion of resources. Probably the most influential idea concerning the social factors behind resource depletion is the “tragedy of the commons”, made famous by Garrett Hardin (1968). According to the tragedy of the commons, competition among individuals over common resources, “the commons”, will result in degradation of resources, unless restrictions in the form of state regulation or privatization are imposed. However, various objections to Hardin’s arguments have been raised. In my paper I will focus on the “tragedy of the commodity”, an alternative approach to overuse and degradation of resources. The tragedy of the commodity approach helps to understand how the commodification of fisheries creates situations favorable for the overuse in the first place and how attempts to fix the problem through further privatization, e.g., through fishing quotas, can do more harm than good. While the creators of the concept, Stefano Longo, Rebecca Clausen and Brett Clark, have focused to overuse in the context of fisheries (2016), I’m expanding the tragedy of the commodity approach toward a more general theory, based on philosophical ontology.
My undertaking consists of utilizing the concept of tragedy of the commodity in exploring the relationship between commodification and the commons on a more general level from an ontological point of view. As my starting point, I argue that the tragedy of the commodity is characterized by the dominating role of exchange value in relation to use values. Using Alain Badiou’s ontological analysis of the relationship between the one and the multiple as my theoretical framework, I will argue that the commodity is inherently one due to it being dominated by exchange value whereas the commons, being essentially use values, are inherently multiple. I will further argue, following Badiou, that the gap between the one and the multiple is unbridgeable. Consequently, as I aim to show, the solutions to problems of the commons that are based on commodification and privatization risk missing their target not only on a practical, but on an ontological level as well.
Start time: 11:30
Room: ABF (210)
Track: Critical Social Theories