Fall and recovery of common goods, by David Murillo

Many of us learned economics from two pulses: the market or the state. public property or private property. According to this interpretation, the errors of some were corrected by others. The excesses and dysfunctions of the others were pointed out by some. And so the pendulum swung from side to side. At the extreme: from state totalitarianism we passed to uninhibited liberalism. From the cult of selfishness and inequality we passed to the nationalizing desire and the extension of the public sphere. From the lack of efficiency and the stagnation of the latter to the individual-consumer and the worker as a business asset. Is there life beyond this pendulum? History tells us yes.

The current recovery of the commons, both in the academic world and in political language or in the field of management, shows that there is something beyond this false dichotomy. And the way to make this recovery visible is to observe its legacy in the economy, in politics or in social movements. In the past, this analysis would allow us to observe the notable role of the community in the shared management of ditches, mills or forests and its imprint on Roman law. In the present, following the presence of the commons would invite attention to new dynamics of collective participationto new projects ranging from the management of leisure and game spaces, to community support services, to Wikipedia or to new urban spaces reappropriated by citizens.

History, however, tells us that the community has been progressively cornered under the ideologies of the state and the market. And that this has been done in the name of apparently incontrovertible principles: efficiency, justice or even equity. And if it were not so? What if the recovery of our community life was not only a social advance but a source of personal growth: a way of life more connected to our psychological and social needs? And we already know that happiness hardly comes alone. From the Japanese tradition of ‘ikigai’, which asks about the life that is ‘worth living’ and its relationship with longevity, to the studies on happiness at Harvard, everything indicates that our personal well-being usually arrives in the presence of othersin the elaboration of personal notions of purpose, service and utility to the common good.

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You don’t have to go to the statistics to observe how our society suffers a progressive shrinkage of social relationships. Our economic system, and with it the social world we build, individualises us, separates us from others and pushes us towards increasingly self-centered models of life and consumption. From here to loneliness epidemic that is triggered between hyper-communicated and hyper-isolated adolescents only goes one step. The movement for the commons tries, then, to bring the community perspective to the management of collective goods. It tries to rediscover the role of the community to help make models of society compatible with psychosocial needs and with the needs of the environment.

The limitations of this community participation in collective life They have been treated from many angles. Is it really feasible? Do we have the capacity, the experience, the time? The recovery of common goods does not pose the banishment of the State or the disappearance of the market. Neither did Marx disapprove of the entrepreneurial spirit of businessmen nor did Adam Smith want to abolish the state. What the current movement to recover the commons is trying to do is open up the spectrum of options to a third management model, of being on the planet and living in community. It basically aims to enrich the debate on the limits of the market and the State. Together with Joan Carrera, we have dedicated the last notebook of the Cristianisme i Justícia collection to this ‘Recover common goods, vindicate good living’. The commons as a space for innovation, reflection and as a way to recover a sense of collective purpose that many pursue but far fewer have analyzed.

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