Spring 2010

The Commons Rising

Listed in: Anthropology and Sociology, as SOCI-42


David A. Bollier (Section 01)


The commons has long been regarded as a side-theme of English history and a cautionary fable about the over-exploitation of shared resources ("the tragedy of the commons"). In recent years, however, the commons has been rediscovered as a versatile paradigm of self-governance and resource management. In circumstances as varied as open source software, Wikipedia, ocean fisheries, indigenous cultures, fresh water supplies, and public spaces--and in countries from Brazil and India to Germany and the United States--self-organized communities are developing their own commons as practical alternatives to markets and government.  Some see the commons as a way to challenge the privatization and commodification of shared resources ("enclosures"). Others see it as a practical tool for re-imagining governance and ecological stewardship in the face of market and government failures.  Still others see the commons as a way to heal the psychic and cultural wounds of modernity.

This course will survey the political and economic history of the commons, its strengths and limitations over the centuries, and its burgeoning contemporary manifestations. We will be guided by the writings of Elinor Ostrom, Peter Linebaugh, Yochai Benkler, Lawrence Lessig, Peter Barnes, Lewis Hyde, and David Bollier as well as by a range of films, essays, and Web resources. The course will have direct conversations with policy experts, academics, and activists who are at the forefront of commons work, and confront the ambiguities and perplexities of this still-emerging realm of thought and action.

Not open to first year students.  Limited to 25 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Lecturer Bollier.

If Overenrolled: First come/wait list


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010

Property & Gift Exchange: Questions

Submitted by David A. Bollier on Sunday, 2/7/2010, at 9:06 AM