Dangers of Commonism, or Ostrom vs. the Commonizers


The community of scholars exploring governance and institutions for the management of an increasing range of resources systems is steadily growing. As long as we were dealing with classical, traditional natural resource governance, the resource units and property regimes were relatively easy to define. In the last two decades new commons and global commons have been added to the research agendas of commons scholars and gained lots of attention in society. The considered resource unit needs to be specified and may not always be subtractable nor the system excludable. The focus is not the appropriation, but rather the joint provision of the resource system. Following this thought, sometimes, commons have been interpreted as social constructions that guarantee the transformation of society towards sustainability and well-being. From a Bloomington School perspective, we want to critically review this development of the recent radical-normative use of the term “commoning.” After addressing the shifting meaning of “commoning” in the literature, our goal in this paper is to “rescue” “commons” as an analytical concept from normative “commonism.” Inter alia, we not only raise concerns but also offer suggestions for structuring empirical observations in the hope of inspiring more constructive discussion.



commons, commoning, action situation