A Tale of Two Conferences: Globalization, the Crisis of Neoliberalism and Question of the Commons

George Caffentzis
University of Maine

In the last decade the concept of the commons has increasingly become the basis of anticapitalist thinking in the antiglobalization (or, as some now have it, “the global justice”) movement. It has been politically useful both as an alternative model of social organization against the onslaught of “there is no alternative” neoliberal thinking and as a link between diverse struggles ranging from those of agricultural workers demanding land, to environmentalists calling for a reduction of the emission of “hot house gases” into the atmosphere, to writers, artists, musicians and software designers rejecting the totalitarian regime of intellectual property rights. But, like any concept in a class society, it can have many and often antagonistic uses. Our paper will show that there is a use of the concept of the commons that can be functional to capitalist accumulation and it offers an explanation as to why this capitalist use developed, especially since the early 1990s. The conclusion of this paper will assess the political problem that this capitalist use of “the commons” (both strategically and ideologically) poses for the anticapitalist movement... Read more

Global Public Goods and Self-Interest

Milton Fisk
Indiana University

1 The neoliberal context

Public goods represent an alternative to the race to the bottom under the banner of market competition. Making them the cornerstone of the national and global economies would imply a vast structural change. This change would increase the assurance of access to important goods and services. Of almost equal importance is the possibility that, with genuine public accountability and participatory management, these public goods will be fair to those who work within them.One doesn’t need to say that this is as far as change should go. It may only be the beginning of a series of structural changes, for having public goods is, at least at first, compatible with private, profit-making enterprises. So, public goodsmay still be challenged by those promoting investments for private profit.This dialectic between the public and the private could always open up the possibility of counterreform, as happened toward the end of the 20th century... Read more


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