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The Circulation of the Common

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Witheford-Dyer, Nick
Date: 2006
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/4519
Sector: Social Organization
New Commons
Subject(s): capitalism
Abstract: "This paper makes theoretical propositions to assist conceive an emergent communism, a 'coming community' that is neither capitalist, socialist nor anarchic, and the place within it of 'immaterial labor. Its argument, in brief, is as follows. "Marx deemed the cellular form of capitalism to be the commodity, a good produced for exchange between private owners. His model of the circulation of capital traced the metamorphosis of the commodity into money, which commands the acquisition of further resources to be transformed into more commodities. The theorists of autonomist Marxism demonstrated how this circulation of capital is also a circulation of struggles, meeting resistances at every point. But although this concept proved important for understanding the multiplicity of contemporary anti-capital, it says very little about the kind of society towards which these struggles move, a point on which the autonomist tradition has mainly been mute. Today, new theorizations about multitude and biopolitics should to reconsider this silence. "I suggest that the cellular form of communism is the common, a good produced to be shared in association. The circuit of the common traces how shared resources generate forms of social cooperation associations that coordinate the conversion of further resources into expanded commons. On the basis of the circuit of capital, Marx identified different kinds of capital mercantile, industrial and financial unfolding at different historical moments yet together contributing to an overall societal subsumption. By analogy, we should recognise differing moments in the circulation of the common. These include terrestrial commons (the customary sharing of natural resources in traditional societies); planner commons (for example, command socialism and the liberal democratic welfare state); and networked commons (the free associations open source software, peer-to-peer networks, grid computing and the numerous other socializations of technoscience). Capital today operates as a systemic unity of mercantile, industrial and financial moments, but the commanding point in its contemporary, neoliberal, phase is financial capital. A twenty-first century communism can, again by analogy, be envisioned as a complex unity of terrestrial, state and networked commons, but the strategic and enabling point in this ensemble is the networked commons. These must however, also be seen in their dependency on, and even potential contradiction, with the other commons sectors. The concept of a complex, composite communism based on the circulation between multiple but commons forms is opens possibilities for new combinations of convivial custom, planetary planning and autonomous association. What follows expand on these cryptic observations."

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