When Will Ordinary People Rise Up? How a United Voice of the Public Could Transform the World

Public uprisings and mass occupations have become a significant force for change on the world stage since 2011, as evidenced in the Middle East revolutions and Occupy protests across North America and Europe. This essay explores the nature of this new social actor, which can be seen as the latest expression of the ‘people’s voice’ – a phenomenon also witnessed in the peace, justice and environmental movements of recent decades. 

Recognising that this collected voice of engaged citizens is acutely aware of the need for world reconstruction and renewal, the question is whether the growing power of the people’to challenge the immense forces of preed and control that stand in the way of transformative change. The Middle East protests and Occupy social and economic inequalities that span rich and poor countries alike, but it would be over-optimistic at this stage to assume that they mark the emergence of a truly global movement of ordinary people. Only a joint demand for a fairer sharing of the world’s wealth, resources and political power is likely to unify citizens of the richest and poorest nations on a common platform, one that recognises the need for global as well as national forms of redistribution as a pathway to ending poverty and extreme inequality. 

The urgent need for world rehabilitation may only begin with a united voice of the people that speaks on behalf of the poorest and most disenfranchised, and gives the highest priority to the elimination of extreme deprivation and needless poverty-related deaths. Based on such an appeal to our common humanity and compassion, the greatest hope for the future is a worldwide popular movement that demands a fairer sharing of global resources as its all-embracing cause.

This is an excerpt from a longer article by Adam Parsons, and published on the Share the World's Resources web page. 
First published in the United Kingdom by Share the World's Resources, June 2012. To download a complete PDF of this article, please click here.

Cultivating Peace: An Excerpt

Redefining the Peace Movement 
An Excerpt from Cultivating Peace, by James O’Dea 

We are witnessing a tidal shift in consciousness. Some see it as a great planetary awakening of awareness accompanied by an extended capacity for empathy and collaboration. The burgeoning networks of people who share these new values, along with the accelerating global communications environment, are creating an unprecedented planetary resonance. We are collectively beginning to shed the skin of humanity’s dysfunctional consciousness. Here are key transformations defining the new peace movement: 
We are moving from being locked into outrage at war and violence, or being defined as a protest movement, to creating a culture of peace from the ground up and from the inside out. 
We are moving from the reactive condemnation of others arising out of a presumed superior moral position, to engaging in dialogue, listening, and drawing on nonviolent communication strategies. 

We are moving from labeling those who disagree with us as the enemy to recognizing the inherent flaw in creating enmity as a peace strategy. In this way our work attempts to dissolve polarizing behaviors. 
We are moving from a consciousness that is problem centered to one that is solution centered. This has a radical impact on how we organize. We are informed by our vision, and our approach is not always defined by the tactics or stance of the opposition. 
We are moving from piecemeal, feel-good, quick-fix interventions, to whole-system maps and systemic transformation. 
We are moving from a reliance on ideological frameworks to integral approaches that are embodied manifestations of peace at the individual and collective levels. 
We are moving from activism that leads to burnout and relationship breakdowns to one in which working for the cause of peace requires self-care and time for quality relationships. 
We are moving from the battleground of proving who is right and who is wrong to understanding worldview transformation and exploring who are wounded and how they can find healing. 
We are moving from an obsession with punishment to the search for truth, reconciliation, and restorative justice. 
We are moving from demanding rights to assuming our responsibility to create environments that promote rights and social justice. 
We are moving from merely critiquing the absence of humanity in others to honing our own capacity for compassionate action, deep empathy, and authentic forgiveness. 
This, then, is the sounding note from inside the heart of peace itself. It says, “Choose me. Cultivate my ways.” Feel the pleasure of love, laughter, and service to others. Feel peace as the presence of conscious and compassionate awareness. Step boldly to incarnate your belief in the power of peace to transform indifference and hostility. Never allow meanness any foothold over you where instead there can be an ample generosity toward others. 
Keep your conscience keenly attentive to the subtlest calls to live in attunement with your own evolving moral imagination. The world is full of moral dilemmas, so listen with confidence to the voice of your higher self, but always be willing to reconsider the validity of your position. Know that you have been asked to walk the path of essence, always drawing deeper from your own essential qualities and allowing them the freest expression—even when cold reason would suppress them. Work ceaselessly to connect the disconnected. 
It is impossible to say whether you will be scorned or rejected or even if you will be cut down, but know that the winds of peace will carry your work into future generations and that you will be part of what turns humanity toward its true destiny. 
Any action that begins in the core of your being is one that unites with the Source of All Being. Look for that igniting point midway between taking yourself too seriously and being too casual about your gifts; it is here that peace arises and asks you to dance with it. Whether your first gesture is to still the mind, pulse a drum, raise your voice, or cross the threshold of an old fear or enmity, celebrate your choice to leave passivity and disbelief behind. Keep faith with your vision even if people scorn you for being an idealist. Make sure your vision is big enough for the time we live in and that your execution of the vision comes from a place of humility. Learn to celebrate your vision even in the midst of great suffering, for your vision is an answer to the suffering you see. Peace is the healer of wounds. 
For as much as you cultivate peace in all of its dimensions, it will cultivate you beyond all recognition
James O’Dea is a renowned figure in international social healing who has conducted healing and reconciliation dialogues for twenty years and was director of Amnesty International’s Washington, DC, office for over ten years. His work as co-director of the Social Healing Project led him to Rwanda, Israel/Palestine, and Northern Ireland. The lead faculty of the popular Peace Ambassador Training hosted by the Shift Network, James is also on the extended faculty of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and he is its immediate past president. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Peace Alliance. 
© 2012 James O’Dea. 
Excerpted from Cultivating Peace: Becoming a 21st Century Peace Ambassador. (Shift Books) www.cultivatingpeace.net    

Time for Democracy 2.0? The Launch of the Manifesto for a Global Democracy

Time for Democracy 2.0? The Launch of the Manifesto For A Global Democracy 
 Kym Beeston - 5th July 2012 – Global Policy 

To read the Manifesto, please click here.

After decades of democratization across Eastern Europe and Latin America and now the democratic elections taking place in countries like Egypt and Libya in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions—one could be forgiven for thinking that the world is fast becoming a remarkably democratic place. 

Sadly, however, this is not the case. Democracy may have grown in form, yet it is retracting in substance. Citizens of many countries have fought so hard for democracy in its traditional sense of free and fair elections and representative politicians, only to discover that, meanwhile, the world has changed so much that this type of democracy—Democracy 1.0—no longer makes much sense in the globalized, interconnected, borderless world in which we now live. 

As Argentinean writer and former politician Fernando Iglesias recently declared—"everything has gone global except democracy." We have a global marketplace, global communications, global institutions, global risks like climate change, and a global financial crisis. 

Yet somehow democracy has been left behind. It flails at the nation state level, struggling to keep its head above water in a world in which party politics has become increasingly redundant and nation states appear increasingly powerless to direct the global forces and decisions that shape the financial systems, employment conditions, food prices, diseases, and environments that determine our livelihoods. 

If democracy is understood as enjoying equal rights to partake in decision making about the rules and policies that bind and affect us, the fact global institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations, and powerful multinational corporations are unelected, unrepresentative, and unaccountable to people affected by their decisions is hugely problematic. 

And so, an impressive array of leading democracy and globalization intellectuals, including Richard Falk, Saskia Sassen, Noam Chomsky, David Held, Daniele Archibugi, Mary Kaldor, and Vandana Shiva, have signed a Manifesto for A Global Democracy. The official launch of the Manifesto took place at the London School of Economics and Political Science on Wednesday 27 June 2012. 
Working from the premise that: “Politics lags behind the facts. We live in an era of deep technological and economic change that has not been matched by a similar development of public institutions responsible for its regulation”, the objective of the global democracy movement is to explore new, more extensive, and deeper forms of democracy, in order to enhance democracy in a global world. 

It is not necessarily about replacing national governments with a world parliament, but about creating a more democratic global order; an international system in which there are viable solutions to the challenges posed by globalization, and within which affected people can have a voice and some measure of power in global politics. In a sense, it calls upon us, as citizens with a right to political participation, to re-conceptualise democracy and find ways to bring it up to speed with the globalized times we live in. 

Thus, whilst the Manifesto calls for the “urgent creation of new global agencies specialized in sustainable, fair and stable development, disarmament and environmental protection, and the rapid implementation of forms of democratic global governance on all the issues that current intergovernmental summits are evidently incapable of solving,” different members of the global democracy movement focus on different strategies. 
For his part, Richard Sennett argues that progress towards global democracy will be made by focusing on cities rather than states. He suggests that in an urbanised world, megacities like Mumbai, Moscow, Mexico City and Sao Paulo are more fractured than the country as a whole, hence the city is a better space to develop a dialogue with global democracy. 

On the other hand, Fernando Iglesias calls for increased citizen participation in social movements, particularly on issues like the campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. Similarly, Daniele Archibugi’s work focuses on a project of ‘cosmopolitan democracy’ in which a new world order is built by promoting democracy on three different but mutually supporting levels – inside states, between states, and globally. 

But, if there is one consistent theme of the global democracy movement, it is that citizens are the nominated agents of global change. At the Manifesto’s launch event, Saskia Sassen pointed out that the systems and structures of power we have today didn’t fall from the sky. We created them ourselves. Similarly, old systems of power like the Soviet Union regime and the Latin American dictatorships only fell because masses of people power were involved.
Thus, global political change requires us, the global demos, to flex our muscle and take action to restructure governance systems at local, regional and global levels to create a world order that is more participative and accountable to the world’s 7 billion inhabitants. 

Naturally, bringing together different strands of work, and consolidating the competing arguments made by various academics and practitioners that form the global democracy movement is a large and difficult task.
Similarly, whilst a stated aim of the Manifesto for A Global Democracy is to provide a lens to see issues and problems facing democracy that we might not otherwise see, psychology suggests that we all suffer from a confirmatory bias—the tendency to only ‘see’ information that confirms our existing beliefs. The success of the movement thus depends on educating a wide range of global citizens about the pitfalls of the deficits of democracy, legitimacy and accountability that plague global decision making, to attract supporters beyond academic circles.
But it is really important to not give up on this challenge. Globalisation is here to stay, so it’s time to accept that democracy as we know it has reached the end of its innocent childhood. It is now going through its difficult teenager years; conflicted, rebellious, unsure of who it is. 

It’s now up to us to nurture it, educate it, instill wisdom upon it, to help it grow and mature into an adult, fully equipped to thrive in a globalised world. It’s time to start thinking about Democracy 2.0.   

10 Steps to Becoming a Global Citizen

10 Steps to Becoming a Global Citizen 
(from our partner—The Global Citizens Initiative

There is an emerging world community to which we all belong. The growing interconnectedness among people, countries, and economies means that there is a global dimension to who we are. The most positive way of responding to this is by pursuing a path of global citizenship. Global citizens see ourselves as part of an emerging world community, and are committed to helping build this community’s values and practices.

Here are 10 Steps that you can take if you are interested in becoming a global citizen.

Step 1.  RECOGNIZE THE GLOBAL PART OF WHO YOU ARE: All of our lives have become globalized; whether through the Internet, the way in which we’re impacted by the global economy; our desire to provide humanitarian assistance to disaster victims in countries other than our own; or even in our love of world art,music, food, and travel. We all have a part of us that is global. Examine your own life, recognize its global dimension, and reflect on how that affects your view of the world.

Step 2.  EXPAND YOUR DEFINITION OF COMMUNITY: Because of the many ways in which countries and people are now so interconnected, we all are now part of an emerging world community. This doesn’t mean that we have to give up being a member of other communities, e.g., our town, our country, our ethnicity. It means that we have another community—the world community—to which we now belong. Find ways to celebrate your connection to this community.

Step 3.  DISCOVER THE VALUES OF THE WORLD COMMUNITY: Every community needs to have values, and the world community is no exception to this rule. The values of the world community reflect the moral ideals that most of us believe in as the basis for human existence; for example human rights, religious pluralism, participatory governance, protection of the environment, poverty reduction, sustainable economic growth, elimination of weapons of mass destruction, prevention and cessation of conflict between countries, humanitarian assistance, and the preservation of the world’s cultural diversity. Take stock of your belief in these values. Are you aware of ways in which the world as a whole is trying to live by them?

Step 4.  BECOME AWARE OF GLOBAL POLICIES AND PROGRAMS:  Whether you realize it or not, all around you, policies and programs are being developed to help govern our emerging world community. Such policies range in scope from international treaties that ban the spread of nuclear weapons to administrative rules and regulations governing the internet. Learn about these policies and programs by subscribing to publications such as GCitizen, the Newsletter of The Global Citizens’ Initiative (www.theglobalcitizensinitiative.org).

Step 5.  ENGAGE WITH THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE TRYING TO GOVERN THE WORLD:  As a global citizen you should try and build awareness about the different organizations, which are making the policies shaping our world community. These organizations include international agencies, like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund, legal tribunals like the World Court and the International Criminal Court, international professional associations like the The International Federation of Accountants or the International Civil Aviation Organization, and transnational corporations like Starbucks, Hindustan Lever, and Smith/Kline/Glaxo. Try to learn about and engage with these organizations and make sure that they are operating in accordance with the values we perceive to be important.

Step 6.  PARTICIPATE IN AN ADVOCACY EFFORT FOR GLOBAL CHANGE:  Sign petitions, join demonstrations, contribute funds, and explore other ways of advocating for global change. As global citizens we need to join together to express the fact that people across the planet share common views when it comes to basic values such as human rights, environmental protection, and the banning of weapons of mass destruction. The Global Citizens’ Initiative (TGCI) is an organization that provides information and opportunities for global citizens to join together and advocate for change.

Step 7.  HELP ENSURE YOUR COUNTRY’S FOREIGN POLICY PROMOTES GLOBAL VALUES:  Global citizens also are citizens of the countries in which they were born and live. As such we have the ability to influence the positions that our countries take on global issues. We need to help ensure that our country’s foreign policy supports the building of equitable global solutions to world problems; solutions that work for all countries. So let your government know how you feel by supporting leaders who want their countries to become engaged with the world, not isolated from it.

Step 8.  PARTICIPATE IN ORGANIZATIONS WORKING TO BUILD WORLD COMMUNITY:  There are all sorts of organizations making important contributions to our emerging world community—NGOs, global action networks, international professional associations, transnational corporations, and others. They work on a range of issues related to the values of our world community—ranging from human rights to world arts and culture. Pick one, any one that relates to an issue in which you are interested, and get involved.

Step 9.  NURTURE A LIFESTYLE THAT SUPPORTS SUSTAINABLE GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT:  The environmental movement has taught us a great deal about how everyday lifestyles and behaviors can have an impact on the quality of life on our planet. The types of transportation we use, how we heat or cool our homes, the types of clothes we wear and the food we eat all affect our quality of life. As global citizens we need to adopt environmentally responsible behaviors in the ways we live.

Step 10.  SUPPORT WORLD ART, MUSIC, AND CULTURE:  Being a global citizen is also a celebration of  the many different arts and cultures of our people. Take time to learn the ways in which different cultures give expression to the human spirit.

The Rise of the New Economy Movement

by Gar Alperovitz

Activists, theorists, organizations and ordinary citizens are rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up… The movement includes young and old, “Occupy” people, student activists, and what one older participant describes as thousands of “people in their 60s from the ’60s” rolling up their sleeves to apply some of the lessons of an earlier movement. 

Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness. The “New Economy Movement” is a far-ranging coming together of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up. 

The broad goal is democratized ownership of the economy for the “99 percent” in an ecologically sustainable and participatory community-building fashion. The name of the game is practical work in the here and now—and a hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-depth knowledge. 

Thousands of real world projects — from solar-powered businesses to worker-owned cooperatives and state-owned banks — are underway across the country. Many are self-consciously understood as attempts to develop working prototypes in state and local “laboratories of democracy” that may be applied at regional and national scale when the right political moment occurs. 

The movement includes young and old, “Occupy” people, student activists, and what one older participant describes as thousands of “people in their 60s from the ’60s” rolling up their sleeves to apply some of the lessons of an earlier movement. 

Explosion of Energy 
A powerful trend of hands-on activity includes a range of economic models that change both ownership and ecological outcomes. Co-ops, for instance, are very much on target—especially those which emphasize participation and green concerns. The Evergreen Cooperatives in a desperately poor, predominantly black neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio are a leading example. They include a worker-owned solar installation and weatherization co-op; a state-of-the-art, industrial-scale commercial laundry in a LEED-Gold certified building that uses—and therefore has to heat—only around a third of the water of other laundries; and a soon-to-open large scale hydroponic greenhouse capable of producing three million head of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs a year. Hospitals and universities in the area have agreed to use the co-ops’ services, and several cities—including Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Amarillo, Texas are now exploring similar efforts. 

Other models fit into what author Marjorie Kelly calls the “generative economy”–efforts that inherently nurture the community and respect the natural environment. Organic Valley is a cooperative dairy producer in based in Wisconsin with more than $700 million in revenue and nearly 1,700 farmer-owners. Upstream 21 Corporation is a “socially responsible” holding company that purchases and expands sustainable small businesses. Greyston Bakery is a Yonkers, New York “B-Corporation” (a new type of corporation designed to benefit the public) that was initially founded to provide jobs for neighborhood residents. Today, Greystone generates around $6.5 million in annual sales. 

Recently, the United Steelworkers union broke modern labor movement tradition and entered into a historic agreement with the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation and the Ohio Employee Ownership Center to help build worker-owned cooperatives in the United States along the lines of a new “union-co-op” model. 

The movement is also serious about building on earlier models. More than 130 million Americans, in fact, already belong to one or another form of cooperative—and especially the most widely known form: the credit union. Similarly, there are some 2,000 municipally owned utilities, a number of which are ecological leaders. (Twenty-five percent of American electricity is provided by co-ops and public utilities.) Upwards of 10 million Americans now also work at some 11,000 employee-owned firms (ESOP companies). 

More than 200 communities also operate or are establishing community land trusts that take land and housing out of the market and preserve it for the community. And hundreds of “social enterprises” use profits for social or community serving goals. Beyond these efforts, roughly 4,500 Community Development Corporations and 1.5 million non-profit organizations currently operate in every state in the nation. 

The movement is also represented by the “Move Your Money” and “bank transfer day” campaigns, widespread efforts to shift millions of dollars from corporate giants like Bank of America to one or another form of democratic or community-benefiting institution. Related to this are other “new banking” strategies. Since 2010, 17 states, for instance, have considered legislation to set up public banks along the lines of the long-standing Bank of North Dakota. 

Several cities—including Los Angeles and Kansas City— have passed “responsible banking” ordinances that require banks to reveal their impact on the community and/or require city officials to only do business with banks that are responsive to community needs. Other cities, like San Jose and Portland, are developing efforts to move their money out of Wall Street banks and into other commercial banks, community banks or credit unions. Politicians and activists in San Francisco have taken this a step further and proposed the creation of a publicly owned municipal bank. 

There are also a number of innovative non-public, non-co-op banks—including the New Resource Bank in San Francisco, founded in 2006 “with a vision of bringing new resources to sustainable businesses and ultimately creating more sustainable communities.” Similarly, One PacificCoast Bank, an Oakland-based certified community development financial institution, grew out of the desire to “create a sustainable, meaningful community development bank and a supporting nonprofit organization.” And One United Bank—the largest black-owned bank in the country with offices in Los Angeles, Boston and Miami—has financed more than $1 billion in loans, most in low-income neighborhoods. 

Ex-JP Morgan managing director John Fullerton has added legitimacy and force to the debate about new directions in finance at the ecologically oriented Capital Institute. And in several parts of the country, alternative currencies have long been used to help local community building—notably “BerkShares” in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and “Ithaca Hours” in Ithaca, New York. 

Active protest efforts are also underway. The Occupy movement, along with many others, has increasingly used direct action in support of new banking directions—and in clear opposition to old. On April 24, 2012 over 1,000 people protested bank practices at the Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in San Francisco. Similar actions, some involving physical “occupations” of bank branches, have been occurring in many parts of the country since the Occupy movement started in 2011. Large-scale demonstrations occurred at the Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting in May 2012. 

What to do about large-scale enterprise in a “new economy” is also on the agenda. A number of advocates, like Boston College professor Charles Derber, contemplate putting worker, consumer, environmental, or community representatives of “stakeholder” groups on corporate boards. Others point to the Alaska Permanent Fund which invests a significant portion of the state’s mineral revenues and returns dividends to citizens as a matter of right. Still others, like David Schweickart and Richard Wolff, propose system-wide change that emphasizes one or another form of worker ownership and management. (In the Schweickart version, smaller firms would be essentially directly managed by workers; large-scale national firms would be nationalized but also managed by workers.) A broad and fast-growing group seeks to end “corporate personhood,” and still others urge a reinvigoration of anti-trust efforts to reduce corporate power. (Breaking up banks deemed too big to fail is one element of this.) 

In March 2012, the Left Forum held in New York also heard many calls for a return to nationalization. And even among “Small is Beautiful” followers of the late E. F. Schumacher, a number recall this historic build-from-the-bottom-up advocate’s argument that “[w]hen we come to large-scale enterprises, the idea of private ownership becomes an absurdity.” (Schumacher continuously searched for national models that were as supportive of community values as local forms.) 

Theory and Action 
A range of new theorists have also increasingly given intellectual muscle to the movement. Some, like Richard Heinberg, stress the radical implications of ending economic growth. Former presidential adviser James Gustav Speth calls for restructuring the entire system as the only way to deal with ecological problems in general and growth in particular. David Korten has offered an agenda for a new economy which stresses small Main Street business and building from the bottom up. (Korten also co-chairs a “New Economy Working Group” with John Cavanagh at the Institute of Policy Studies.) Juliet Schor has proposed a vision of “Plentitude” oriented in significant part around medium-scale high tech industry. My own work on a Pluralist Commonwealth emphasizes a community-building system characterized by a mix of democratized forms of ownership ranging from small co-ops all the way up to public/worker-owned firms where large scale cannot be avoided. 

Writers like Herman Daly and David Bollier have also helped establish theoretical foundations for fundamental challenges to endless economic growth, on the one hand, and the need to transcend privatized economics in favor of a “commons” understanding, on the other. The awarding in 2009 of the Nobel Prize to Elinor Ostrom for work on commons-based development underlined recognition at still another level of some of the critical themes of the movement. 

Around the country, thinkers are clamoring to meet and discuss new ideas. The New Economy Institute, led primarily by ecologists and ecological economists, hoped to attract a few hundred participants to a gathering to be held at Bard College in June 2012. The event sold out almost two months in advance! An apologetic email went out turning away hundreds who could not be accommodated with the promise of much bigger venue the next year. And that’s just one example. From April to May 2012, the Social Venture Network held its annual gathering in Stevenson, Washington. The Public Banking Institute gathered in Philadelphia. The National Center for Employee Ownership met in Minneapolis—also to record-breaking attendance. And the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) held a major conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Other events planned for 2012 include the Consumer Cooperative Management Association’s meeting in Philadelphia; the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives’ gathering in Boston; a Farmer Cooperatives conference organized by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives; and meetings of the National Community Land Trust Network and the Bioneers. The American Sustainable Business Council, a network of 100,000 businesses and 300,000 individuals, has been holding ongoing events and activities throughout 2012. 

Daunting Challenges 
The New Economy Movement is already energetically involved in an extraordinary range of activities, but it faces large-scale, daunting challenges. The first of these derives from the task it has set for itself—nothing less than changing and democratizing the very essence of the American economic system’s institutional structure. 

Even viewed as a long-range goal, the movement obviously confronts the enormous entrenched power of an American political economic system dominated by very large banking and corporate interests—and bolstered by a politics heavily dependent on the financial muscle of elites at the top. (One recent calculation is that 400 individuals at the top now own more wealth than the bottom 160 million.) 

A second fundamental challenge derives from the increasingly widespread new economy judgment that economic growth must ultimately be reduced, indeed, even possibly ended if the dangers presented by climate change are to be avoided—and if resource and other environmental limits are to be responsibly dealt with. 

Complicating all this is the fact that most labor unions—the core institution of the traditional progressive alliance—are committed to growth as absolutely essential (as the economy is now organized) to maintaining jobs. 

History dramatizes the implacable power of the existing institutions—until, somehow, that power gives way to the force of social movements. Most of those in the New Economy movement understand the challenge as both immediate and long-term: how to put an end to the most egregious social and economically destructive practices in the near term; how to lay foundations for a possible transformation in the longer term. 
And driving the movement’s steady build up, day by day, year by year, is the growing economic and social pain millions of Americans now experience in their own lives—and a sense that something fundamental is wrong. The New Economy Movement speaks to this reality, and just possibly, despite all the obstacles—as with the civil rights, feminist, environmental and so many other earlier historic movements—it, too, will overcome. If so, the integrity of its goals and the practicality of its developmental work may allow it to help establish foundations for the next great progressive era of American history. It is already adding positive vision and practical change to everyday life. 

Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, is a Founding Principal of The Democracy Collaborative, as well as historian, political economist, and writer. ~~         

Advancing A Planetary Movement

The planetary challenge is urgent and systemic. The world confronts twenty-first century perils hobbled by twentieth century mindsets and institutions, a dangerous gap that bodes ill. A just and sustainable civilization is still possible. We can forge a path to a different future: a world of lives enriched and nature resilient.  

A fragmented movement is incapable of systemic transformation. Civil society efforts are vital, but lack an overarching vision and strategy matched to the complexity of the historic task. A critical social actor is missing from the global stage. The transition awaits the awakening of a vast cultural and political movement engaged on all fronts in a supranational project of global citizenship.  

The Global Citizens Movement (GCM) will be adaptive and polycentric. The living movement will evolve as a dispersed ecology of associations, spawning centers of influence in every nation and community. A new organizing campaign, The Widening Circle, with the explicit aim of catalyzing a global movement of global citizens is evolving. From the onset, such a campaign must foster a politics of trust, committed to balancing unity and pluralism on the road to our common future. Join the Dialogue! Join the Campaign! 

To download this article as a PDF, please click here.
To learn more about the Global Citizens Movement, please visit The Widening Circle web site.

The London Seminars: Emergence of a Commons-Based Economy

The London Seminars: Emergence of a Commons-Based Economy 
Friday, May 25, 2012 

To judge from James B. Quilligan's recent series of talks in London, Brits are more receptive to, and interested in, the idea of a commons-based economy than ever.  Below, James reflects on his many encounters and dialogues over the course of two weeks.  –David Bollier 

Twelve seminars in twelve days? Each on a different topic? Imagine the angst I felt last winter when organizers in London approached me to make this demanding array of presentations on consecutive days. 

They explained that each of the sponsoring groups had a unique perspective on the commons, ranging from economics, business, politics, democracy, culture and technology to land reform, private property, trusteeship, interest rates, systems theory and spirituality. 

Once I’d grasped the constellation of issues, I welcomed the challenge of integrating them with the commons. It sounded like real fun.  After extensive preparations, the Quilligan Seminars were held from May 7 - 18 at various locations in London. (For reference, my talking points on all the sessions are included here.) 

Co-hosts of the seminars included the House of Commons, Institute for Public Policy Research, New Economics Foundation, Finance Innovation Lab, St. James’s Piccadilly, Synthesis, Civil Society Forum, Working in Trust, Gaia Network, Initiatives of Change, SimPol, School of Economic Science, Henry George Foundation and Hub Westminster. 

Sheepishly, I’d wondered how reintroducing the topic of commons in the nation which invented the name "commons" would go over. Yet what better place to launch the seminars than at the House of Commons? 

On a rainy morning at Parliament, I spoke to seventy people on ‘Political Economy and the Inclusive Commons’. Michael Meacher, Member of Parliament and former Minister for the Environment, chaired the session. 

Over the course of twenty minutes, I described how commons trusts could place a preservation cap on particular commons and determine the proportion of these resources which could be rented to businesses for extraction, production and commerce. In turn, businesses would pay taxes on their profits to government, which would then channel these funds into social dividends and the replenishment of depleted commons. 

“That was really very inspirational,” exclaimed Meacher following the talk. “I have been in politics for a very long time. I don’t think I have been challenged by such radicalism as long as I can remember, a radicalism that is not just a fantasy but a radicalism tied down with specific concepts which are, in the long term, inevitable. I have just learned a huge amount. It is one of those occasions where I feel we are just starting.”

Many others shared this spirit. Lord Maurice Glasman, the Blue Labour Member of Parliament, confided to me, “This is the House of Commons. It’s high time that our leaders live up to that name.” 

All of the seminars were enthusiastically received. They were also well attended, with audiences ranging from thirty to one hundred. Most came for one or two presentations. About twenty people attended six or more of the seminars. 

Along the way, I met with politicos and financiers, lawyers and academics, members of charities and think-and-do tanks, crowdfunders and technological entrepreneurs, advocates for cyber-democracy and global governance, land reform organizers and land trustees, environmentalists and anti-usury campaigners, religious congregations and clergy, neighborhood groups and Occupiers, and a large contingent of activists from Greater London’s civil society. 

I had many memorable dialogues with seminar conveners and colleagues. Some of the most brilliant moments occurred with Lord Glasman on the new economics of replenishment; with Inderpaul Johar on innovative directions in social technology; with Esther Ridsdale on horizontal decison-making in business; with Tim Jenkins on the political salience of trusteeships; with Joseph Milne on the history of property ownership; with Rector Lucy Winkett on sustainability and religious covenant; and with Greg Fisher on complexity theory in economics. All of which were centered on the commons. 

Many people approached me to say how much they had learned and grown from the seminars. But the sessions were really a learning experience for me as well. 

It was mind-stretching to talk with so many different kinds of audiences. The wide variety of people, presentations and questions generated an immersion experience that was highly creative and inspirational. 

To realize how quickly the commons is becoming part of the Western zeitgeist was also deeply humbling and encouraging. When I first spoke in London three years ago, my audience was a bit fuzzy on the significance of the commons. Now Londoners clearly get it and are eager to take action. 

At our final event, working groups organized around many of the issues which emerged from the seminars. These groups are now focused on examining community currencies; designing maps and visual images of the commons; developing commons for health, well-being, gardens and housing; generating outreach for the commons; linking Occupy and commoning; and creating a knowledge ecology of resources through the website Commons Rising, which was recently launched by the School of Commoning. 

The seminars were superbly organized by my colleagues Anna Betz and George Por at the School of Commoning and Peter Challen of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice, with the support of Nancy Roof from Kosmos Journal and many individual donors. 

All of the sessions were videotaped and will eventually be available through Commons Rising, as well as You Tube clips. A datagraph and an e-book of the presentations are also being developed. You can help us meet these goals with a donation at http://www.indiegogo.com/CommonsEconomyRising

You can also follow Commons Rising for updates or to get involved with the London working groups at http://commonsrising.ning.com.

To download this article as a PDF, please click here.

The Commons Law Project: Greenkeeping Governance

Green Governance 
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 

For the past two years or more, I’ve been working on a major research and writing project to try to recover from the mists of history the bits and pieces of what might be called “commons law” (not to be confused with common law).  Commons law consists of those social practices, cultural traditions and specific bodies of formal law that recognize the rights of commoners to manage their own resources.  Most of these governance traditions deal with natural resources such as farmland, forests, fisheries, water and wild game.  Commons law has existed in many forms, and in many cultures, over millennia. 

Ever since the rise of the nation-state and especially industrialized markets, however, commons law has been marginalized if not eclipsed by contemporary forms of market-based law.  Over the past 200 years, individual property rights and market exchange have been elevated over most everything else, and this has only eroded the rights of commoners, it has contributed to the destruction of the Earth and its fragile natural systems. To address this problem, the noted international law and human rights scholar, Professor Burns Weston of the University of Iowa School of Law, and I started the Commons Law Project in 2010.  We wanted to re-imagine the scope of human rights law, validate neglected forms of commons-based ecological governance and reframe the very notion of “the economy” to incorporate non-market sharing and collaboration. 
It has been, I concede, an ambitious enterprise.  But we had concluded that incremental efforts to expand human rights and environmental protection within the framework of the State/Market duopoly were simply not going to achieve much.  Indeed, the existing system of regulation and international treaties has been a horrendous failure over the past forty years.  Neoliberal economics has corrupted and compromised law and regulation, slashing away at responsible stewardship of our shared inheritance while hastening a steady decline of the world’s ecosystems – forests, wetlands, fisheries, coral reefs, the atmosphere, the polar zones, and more. 

So Burns and I wanted to critique why the existing structures of law and economics have failed, and to suggest some practical new solutions based in law.  We concluded that new forms of ecological governance that respect human rights, draw upon commons models and reframe our understanding of economic value, hold great promise.  I am happy to report that Burns and I recently completed a book manuscript, Green Governance:  Ecological Survival, Human Rights and the Commons, which has been accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press for 2013.  In the meantime, a preview of our thinking can be found in a prior draft essay that we wrote in 2011, “Regenerating the Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment in the Commons Renaissance.”  We have posted this 173-page essay (with copious footnotes) on our newly launched website for our Commons Law Project.  A shorter version can be found in an essay just published in the Spring|Summer issue of Kosmos Journal, which continues to feature some noteworthy pieces on the commons, including James Quilligan’s second essay on the theme, “Toward a Common Theory of Value.

Kosmos Mission Statement-Serbian

Mission - Serbian
Kosmos warmly thanks Stanimirka Milovanovic for her translation work. 
Kosmos izraıava iskrenu zahvalnost Stanimirki Milovanović za njen prevodilački rad. 

Naša misija

KOSMOS je starogrčka reč koja opisuje harmoniju i lepotu univerzuma u kojem svaki njegov delić ima svoje mesto u njegovoj Sveobihvatnosti. To je reč koja označava i mesto koje čovek zauzima u nepromenljivosti bivstvovanja i evoluciji životnih sila Prirode. Svi ljudi udruženi na izdavanju 'Kosmos'-a zauzimaju integralni pristup čoveku imajući stalno u vidu uzajamnu povezanost čovekovog tela, uma, duše i kao i njegov duh koji stvara svest, kulturu, pogled na svet i život, društvene institucije i u krajnjem ishodu narode na putu stvaranja jedne nove civilazicije.

Misija svih nas uključenih u projekat 'Kosmos' je da prenosimo informacije i inspirišemo što više ljudi da se uključe u globalno podizanje opšte svesti na viši nivo i tako doprinesu transformaciji postojećih političkih, ekonomskih, kulturnih i društvenih struktura kako bi one postale odraz ovog novog i višeg nivoa ljudske svesti. Naši napori su usmereni na novi način sagledavanja našeg zajedništva i raznolikosti u okviru nje, na preoblikovanje i povezivanje globalnog sveta realnosti sa čovekovim unutrašnjim svetom duhovnih vrednosti.

Mi smo prva generacija kojoj se ukazala prilika da sa-učestvuje u stvaranju globalne civilazacije zasnovane na konceptu održivog razvoja i uzajamnosti. Izuzetno je važno da shvatimo suštinu mogućnosti koja nam se otvorila u trenutku kada se nalazimo pred izborom dva suprotstavljena pravca: ili ćemo krenuti putem potpunog nestanka ili putem opstanka uz prosvećenje i razvijeniju svest. Mi verujemo da jedino jedan ovako sveobihvatni pristup razvoju i potpunoj transformaciji kako na ličnom planu tako i u ravni opšte kulture i globalne svesti koji zauzimamo danas obećava radjanje nove civilizacije dostojnečoveka.

Plan rada

  • Proširiti viziju mogućeg kroz prihvatanje evolutivnih impulsa nove globalne civilazacije.
  • Učiniti čovekovo srce prijemčivijim putem umetnosti koja transformiše.
  • Ulagati zajedničke napore u sa-učestvovanju u stvaranju novog načina života i zajedništva u svetu.
  • Izdavanje magazina KOSMOS koji predstavlja integralni pristup globalnom budjenju svesti.
  • Pratiti najprogresivnije ideje vodilje prema novoj civilaziciji i zajedništvu u svetu.
  • Sa-učestvovanje u stvaranju civilnog društva na medjunarodnom nivou.
  • Učestvovati u pokretanju inicijative za stvaranje nove političke strukture i demokratizovanje Ujedinjenih nacija (OUN).
  • Podrška 'Povelji o planeti zemlji', Medjunarodnom danu mira, i drugim globalnim manifestacijama.
  • Učestvovanje u globalnim dijalozima, procesima medijacije, salonima, akademskim dešavanjima, partnerskim akcijama i povezivanju u saveze sa sličnim organizacijama.

'Kosmos' izražava naročitu zahvalnost organizaciji 'Fondacija Kaliopa' (Kalliopeia Foundation) za njihovu stalnu podršku našem radu. Ako želite da saznate više o 'Fondaciji Kaliopa' možete pogledati sajt:www.kalliopeia.org. Takodje bismo želeli da se zahvalimo Fondacijama 'Betsi Gordon' (Betsy Gordon), 'Fetcer' (Fetzer) i 'Lajfbridž' (Lifebridge Foundation) na njihovoj finansijskoj podršci. 


  • Podstaći samopreispitivanje u procesu oblikovanja planetarne civilizacije koja bi bila usaglašena sa prirodom na zemlji i kosmosom.
  • Podići na viši nivo i produbiti komunikaciju o pitanjima od opšteg značaja u svetu.
  • Podržati zajedničke napore na medjunarodnom nivou koji doprinose opštem dobru u svetu.
  • Tragati za novim oblicima duhovnosti za globano doba.
  • Rešavati teškoće kroz sveobuhvatno vidjenje sveta.
  • Podstaći razvoj dobro informisanog globalnog civilnog društva.
  • Širiti solidarnost medju ljudima kroz poštovanje kulturoloških i razvojnih razlika.

Delokrug rada

  • Pitanja od globalnog značaja i globalno upravljanje resursima
  • Sveobuhvatni pogled na svet i globalne vrednosti
  • Globalna duhovnost i globalna svest
  • Nauka i tehnologij
  • Kolektivna svest
  • Opšta dobra

Nastanak i razvoj

U jednoj osunčanoj bašti na Menhetnu u samoj blizini zgrade Ujedinjenih nacija, sastala se jednog dana nekolicina ljudi koju je spajala zajednička želja i posvećenost poboljšanju kvaliteta ljudskog života i humanizaciji odnosa u svetu. Medju njima su se našli budistički sveštenik Čung OK Li (Chung OK Lee), glavni sveštenik budističkog Von hrama na Menhetnu (Won-Buddhist Temple) i Ko-predsednik Svetske konferencije o religiji i miru (World Conference on Religions and Peace) , zatim Nensi Ruf (Nancy Roof), Su-osnivač Vrednosnog kokusa (Values Caucus) pri Ujedinjenim nacijama, kasnije Kokusa duhovnih vrednosti (Spiritual Caucus). Upitali smo se: šta je svetu najpotrebnije u trenutku kada stupamo u dvadesetprvi vek? Tada smo se inače pripremali za Konferenciju nevladinih organizacija koja se te jeseni održavala u Koreji. Kasnije smo nastavili sa druženjem da bismo napisali i dopunili izdanje 'Vizija nove civilizacije: Duhovne i etičke vrednosti za novi milenijum'. Našu grupu smo zvali 'Prijatelji za Novu civilizaciju'. Posle toga smo predstavili u Ujedinjenim nacijama Prvu konferenciju o etici (First Ethics Conference).

Vremenom smo našli nove kolege sa istom zainteresovanošću za dobrobit čovečanstva: Patriša Miš, osnivač 'Udruženja za globalno obrazovanje' (Patricia Mische, Global Education Associates), i Alfredo Sfir Junis (Alfredo Sfeir-Younis) iz Svetske banke. Iznenadilo nas je saznanje da smo grupa istaknutih profesionalaca iz različitih oblasti, uključujući politiku, ekonomiju, razvoj, obrazovanje, psihologiju i religiju; da smo sa različitih kontinenata i pripadamo različitim civilizacijama: Evropa, Afrika, Azija, Bliski i Srednji istok, Latinska Amerika i Severna Amerika; da pripadamo različitim religijama: katolicizam, protestantizam, islam, budizam i perenijalna filozofija, odnosno, philosophia perennis (Perennial Philosophy). Bilo je očigledno da naša medjusobno različita rasna, nacionalna, religijska i profesionalna pripadnost nije postavljala nikakvu barijeru našem okupljanju oko zajedničkog cilja.

Nas četvoro je učestvovalo na jednoj konferenciji na Antiokija koledžu (Antioch College) gde smo pred izuzetno motivisanim auditorijumom izneli naša različita gledišta o medjunarodnim odnosima u sprezi sa duhovnim vrednostima. Kasnije nam se pridružio Abdul Aziz Said sa Američkog univerziteta (American University) da bismo zajedno osnovali 'Magazin Duhovnost & Realnost: Novo vidjenje globalnih pitanja (Journal, Spirituality & Reality: New Perspectives on Global Issues). Nensi Ruf je u svojstvu glavnog urednika nastavila sa širenjem Magazina i povećanjem njegovog tiraža, dok su ostali doprinosili misiji Magazina svojim člancima koji su u skladu sa ostvarivanjem ciljeva Magazina.

U junu 2004.godine, Magazin je dobio novo ime: 'Kosmos', sa podnaslovom 'Integralni pristup budjenju globalne svesti' čime se bliže odslikava misija izdavača 'Kosmos'-a.

Godine 2009., ovaj podnaslov je promenjen u: 'Magazin za gradjane sveta koji stvaraju novu civilizaciju.'

An Introduction to the Quilligan Seminars: Rebuilding our Beloved Commons

In reviewing the topics for The Emergence of a Commons-Based Economy, it’s clear that each of the presentations in this series is different. While each of the Quilligan Seminars is indeed unique, they are not discrete or unconnected segments. The greater thematic unity which interlinks them is essentially a “commons of the commons”. More than anything, it is a worldview which calls us to rebuild and restore our Beloved Commons as part of the world renaissance that has now begun.
Throughout most of human history, people have lived in deep relation to the meaning expressed in the public life of their societies. The spirit of the people is demonstrated in our common institutions, through which we define our identity. We are what we are in virtue of participating in the larger life of society. But how much longer can we be loyal to the debilitating forms of modern society? The rules and disciplines of the Market State are neither the creation of the public, nor are they the creation of what is best in us and truly ourselves. The public experience of society has become irrelevant and often monstrous. Globalization is about corporatocracy, not the democratic aspirations of the world’s people. Through their homogenization and interdependence, business-controlled governments have become an intolerable imposition on the citizens of this planet. The Market State has trampled our power to gather together, collaborate and produce, destroying the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere it has appeared. The theories and practices of the Market State, expressed through economic and political totalization, are a travesty of our ideals for the public life of the community. 

Those who have chosen to champion a particular view of either the social good or of individual rights have generated an enormous political polarity. The ideal of mass equality has led to homogenization and uniformity of society and submission under omnipotent governments. People today find little value in participating in forms of political decision-making which are merely demonstrative and not substantive. Extreme emphasis on the collective good has undermined the traditional commons because few people identify with the local political units that are carved out essentially to perpetuate social hierarchies and secure our complacency. As the saying goes, “the system is not broken, it’s fixed”. 
Likewise, the ideal of mass freedom has become an empty vessel, offering no means for people to identify with their local commons. Only the individual can create change, not society. Societies must nurture the freedom of the individual, but this is often accomplished by abolishing collectivities and returning society to primitive conditions. These upheavals are often carried out by zealous minorities with a vision of militant nationalism or totalitarian ideology. Such reckless programs depreciate and crush the individuality and diversity that arise from the commons, uprooting people and destroying their traditions and means of livelihood. 
This duality between the ideals of social equality and political freedom discourages personal and social reconciliation, the transformation of our communities and the creation of a commons-based economy. When the individual is set in competition with the whole, the moral will and creativity of the people are suppressed. Mind and body are seen as separate units. Our being is split from our actions. Our common purpose is lost. 

For those seeking to overcome this alienation through a Third Way, the problem is that in attempting to combine the common good and individual rights in a neutral fashion (by not emphasizing one over the other), a very strong kind of relativism has resulted. This polarity is not transcended through the autonomous and dynamic countervailing power of the people. This is because our middle path for social alternatives is passive rather than active and creative. We have not fully recognized that the society which sees itself as an inevitable polarity between the social good and individual rights destroys the forms of life that are rooted in the commons. We do not seem to recognize how the individual fits in society or how society can support personal growth and creativity. Without a sense of the indivisibility of human existence, the modern ideologies of collective rights and individual rights are both devoid of the realization that people take part in a variety of commons which are the source of our livelihood and well-being. This has left us starved for the equality and freedom which express the interrelatedness of human life and which can arise only through our commons. 

All of this is changing now as a result of the commons movement. The Quilligan Seminars in London underscore various facets of our commoning activities which unite individual freedom and collective freedom through a social order based on Oneness. New Era Economics and the Commons (16 May) describes the most irreducible fact in economics — that resource systems may either be depletable (natural, material) or replenishable (natural, solar, social, cultural, intellectual, digital). This means that economists — and all of us — need to be looking at the complementarity of the stocks and flows of resource systems for a better indicator of sustainability in a world of disequilibrium and instability. In refusing to affirm a preference for the common good or the rights of the individual, while seeing both as important but imperfectly expressed through the Market State, we are creating a framework that is neutral among ends but highly transformative. Our conventional approach to economics needs to be radically reconstructed so that the relationships between individual, institutions and the commons are better understood. 

Political Economy and the Inclusive Commons (8 May) examines how the aggregation of the social good and the radical atomism of individual rights have both eroded the meaning of citizenship and communities. It describes the commons as a third sector that can create a more beneficial balance in society, bringing people a new form of political power. Through the co-production and co-governance of a commons, resource users become the producers of their own resources, allowing the traditional model of property ownership (utility, self-interest, profit) to be eclipsed by a new framework of trusteeship (sustainability, quality of life and well-being). 

Restoring the Commons or Terminal Decline (9 May) describes the enormous costs to planetary society that occur when citizens are not aware of the commons and their responsibilities for stewarding them. This seminar also demonstrates how the principles of Henry George and Peter Barnes may be applied to a commons-based economy, creating a far more representative balance of power and wealth between the commons, business and government than currently exists. In this vision of a new society, private industry provides the public with goods and services which are produced from the surplus resources rented from commons trusts. Government then recycles these rents as social dividends for the public and as funds for the preservation and regeneration of the commons. 

Of course, a new political and social balance is not possible unless the public life of the commons expresses the deep ontological structure that has been missing in the Market State. Democratizing the Global Political Commons (7 May) describes the units and scales of political accountability that are necessary for post-liberal forms of multilateral cooperation, a new international economic system and the creation of a democratic confederation of world citizens. In realizing this ontology for restoring the local and global communities through our commons, a new kind of collective value must arise. This social dynamic — emerging from the shared values and meanings of people’s life-experiences in the organization and production of their commons — includes but transcends the market and state, bringing people new forms of political power. These new political accountability structures involve pluralism, subsidiarity, polycentrism, checks and balances, and horizontalist decision-making. 

Organizational Practice and the Commons (15 May) focuses on what needs to be done to adjust our organizations models, systems and ways of working to better serve the common interests and protect well-being of all. Besides maximizing the power of networks to create greater synergy through cross-sectoral cooperation among existing institutions, many new forms of commons collaboration are emerging, leading to new ways of interacting and coordinating social and economic life. For example, social charters, co-governance, co-production, commons trusts, autonomous civil society initiatives, partnership governments and peer-to-peer job creation are rapidly generating new forms of value and political management, teaching civil society organizations how to adopt new values and structures. 

Financial Innovation and the Commons (10 May) describes how the modern economy can be reconceived as a subsystem of the biospheric commons, providing the long-term signals and incentives (through ecological, energy and exchange rate stability) that businesses are presently seeking. It describes how the global commons — material, natural, genetic, social, intellectual, cultural and digital — provide a range of assets that can create the reserve base for a new global monetary system and standard of value. This, in turn, will create a new dynamic in the world of business and finance, opening broad opportunities for the development of Commons Wealth Funds. 

The emerging commons society rests upon a non-polar framework which does not make the common good more important than individual rights, or individual rights more important than common good, but recognizes the mutual importance of both. We can recover the meaning of citizenship and community — which has been lost through the corporate economy and the bureaucratic state — by focusing on the production and management of our commons. The Great Transition and the Commons (14 May) describes a new epistemology of resource sovereignty, shared responsibility and legal accountability which recognizes the moral and political legitimacy of people’s rights to preserve, access, produce, manage and use their own resources. It demonstrates that all individuals take part in a larger life, since human beings are vitally dependent on one another. No person is either completely socialized or completely separate — everyone has both qualities of existence. Commons trusts can express this understanding through a methodology and political mechanism for the management and valuation of society’s common goods. These trusts preserve the commons for the benefit of both present and future generations. 

As a politically organized community, the commons express the self-sufficiency and indivisibility that underlie society and nature. The commons are a community which, like a living organism, resolve the polarizing distinction between means and ends. There is no difference between what is and what ought to be. Being and doing are one. In this way, Property, Value and the Commons (11 May) demonstrates how self-organizing communities transcend the traditional division of labor by allowing resource users to become directly involved in the process of production. It focuses on the norms and rules that alternative communities have developed to oversee their collective resources sustainably, including both natural and human-created commons and how they correspond (or not) to relevant laws of nature or natural law. 

The Crowd and the Commons (12 May) also describes how deriving value through crowdfunding has the potential of involving resources users in the process of producing their own resources, thereby generating new forms of value, cooperation and trusteeship. Since each of us has roles defined by our communities which are deeply embedded in their collective accountability structures, the commons provide the basis of the individual rights and obligations that already exist in the social good. This greater good is achieved by individuals working collectively on a voluntary basis — freely offering one’s labor for the social benefit. Applying this principle to crowdfunding, financial resources can now be amassed by individuals for the social good without the need for traditional banks or venture capital. 

Covenant Stewardship and the Inclusive Commons (13 May) examines the spiritual dimension of the commons. This is the vision of a completely integrated society, a community of love and justice where brother and sisterhood are realized through all of social life. It is not the competition for resources that we seek, but the demonstration of our common ideals and notions of what it means to be human. The set of practices and institutions which comprise the public life of the community, expressing the norms and purposes essential to the identities of its people, are sustained only through their participation in these practices and institutions. Ultimately, harmony and cooperation between nations is achieved only through the advancement of culture. Evolution emerges through the dynamic of the group expressed by individuals acting together but also voluntarily. Whatever the collective action is attempting to generate, if human free will is not involved, the social good will not be realized because the individual is not invested in the outcome. Society cannot grow unless the individual is also growing. 

Convergence Working Group (17 May) and Convergence for a Commons-Based Economy (18 May) are attempts to provide broader thinking among the seminar conveners and the public on a commons for the commons — not a set of solutions, but a process for reaching such solutions. Obviously, these are deeply challenging and momentous questions. How do we overcome our alienation and revitalize the democratic possibilities of a shared public life? How do we recover our autonomy and return to the norms of a differentiated society and the moral obligations of the community? How do we identify and engage with the decentralized federation of communities producing and organizing their own resources as in the past? 

In sum, reality is comprised of structures that form an interrelated whole. Yet our present practices and institutions are not embodying the kinds of goals, norms and ends which manifest that whole. The public expression of society no longer has genuine meaning. The Quilligan Seminars suggest that individual rights can be achieved only through the ethical norms of the social good embodied in a community where the individual can realize the moral possibilities that are already there, however distorted or repressed they may be. 

The commons recognize the dichotomy between individuals as the sum of their desires and ends (through the common good) and the individual being who is free to make choices independent of those desires and ends (as in individual rights). This shows how deeply the commons are already embedded in the human networks of mutuality and the means of attaining this intergroup and interpersonal living through nonviolent means. We are now realizing how individuals can be separate from others and part of a greater wholeness. This unity or interrelatedness of the commons transcends differences in tribe, race, class and nation, demonstrating that whatever affects one person affects everyone. The commons recognize that the politics of individual rights and the politics of the commons good are both important, but have become highly distorted by the communities of power in the market and the state. The commons reveal how the Market State expresses a worldview in which people are considered more like material animals than transcendent spiritual beings. It shows that the separation or distancing of the human mind from life and matter is the basis of all economic and political dysfunction. We are now recognizing that our Beloved Commons are both the state of individual being and the collective state of the world. The non-dualism of individual rights and the social good is teaching us how to rebuild our commons, create collective intentions for the planet based on sustainability and restore the peace and tranquility of the world. This will lead to a World Renaissance in the Twenty-First Century, including the creation of a federation of global citizens, a common system of government and public services, and a common pool of financial resources. Our task is ultimately to reconcile the mind and the body and advance the consciousness of Unity among all citizens of the planet. 

James B. Quilligan 
April 2012

To download this article as a PDF, please click here.