An Architektur: The term “commons” occurs in a variety of historical contexts. First of all, the term came up in relation to land enclosures during pre- or early capitalism in England; second, in relation to the Italian autonomia movement of the 1960s; and third, today, in the context of file-sharing networks, but also increasingly in the alter-globalization movement. Could you tell us more about your interest in the commons?
Massimo De Angelis: My interest in the commons is grounded in a desire for the conditions necessary to promote social justice, sustainability, and happy lives for all. As simple as that. These are topics addressed by a large variety of social movements across the world that neither states nor markets have been able to tackle, and for good reasons. State policies in support of capitalist growth are policies that create just the opposite conditions of those we seek, since they promote the working of capitalist markets. The latter in turn reproduce socio-economic injustices and hierarchical divisions of power, environmental catastrophes and stressed-out and alienated lives. Especially against the background of the many crises that we are facing today—starting from the recent global economic crisis, and moving to the energy and food crises, and the associated environmental crisis—thinking and practicing the commons becomes particularly urgent.
A New Political Discourse: From Movement to Society
Massimo De Angelis: Commons are a means of establishing a new political discourse that builds on and helps to articulate the many existing, often minor struggles, and recognizes their power to overcome capitalist society. One of the most important challenges we face today is, how do we move from movement to society? How do we dissolve the distinctions between inside and outside the movement and promote a social movement that addresses the real challenges that people face in reproducing their own lives? How do we recognize the real divisions of power within the “multitude” and produce new commons that seek to overcome them at different scales of social action? How can we reproduce our lives in new ways and at the same time set a limit to capital accumulation?
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