The commons is the incarnation, the production, and the liberation of the multitude. Rousseau said that the first person who wanted a piece of nature as his or her own exclusive possession and transformed it into the transcendent form of private property was the one who invented evil. Good, on the contrary, is what is common (Empire 303).
one begins not from the fact or necessity of private property but from the primacy and creativity of the commons, it is not the negation or removal of private property that is at issue, but instead its irrelevance. As a social relation, from this point of view, private property might be a mere blip on the screen of history; perhaps it does not and should not define the apex of human accomplishment. Not the abolition of private property, then, but the insignificance of it in the face of the much more enduring power of becoming
Rather fab quote from here
I have been teaching Negri and Hardt's book Empire, flawed insane genius I think, a very productive text but not a guide to political action and many of you can comment on the numerous problems with Empire.
Their section on the 'commons', however, is superb.
It struck me that Negri and Hardt and the beloved Elinor Ostrom really complement each other wonderfully but I suspect those who read Elinor are unlike to read Negri and Hardt and vice versa.
(One wonderful exception can be found here)
Negri and Hardt are to put it simplistically very exotic communists, Marx has passionate sex with Foucault to their mutual satisfaction to produce a strange and wonderful child.
Empire is sweeping philosophical material, much is very challenging to understand and based on sweeping and often unsustainable assumptions.
And when it comes to ecology, despite a reference to the environmental destruction of imperialism, their heart is not really in it.
Elinor is empirical, detailed, modest, clear research that would make most economists blush with methodological shame. She has got out their done fieldwork and found that in many circumstances with the right approach commons can work to create prosperity without wrecking the environment.
She is from a solid Hayekian background (no Marx, Spinoza, Foucault, etc) and of course she is finely attuned to ecology.
I think all readers of Hardt and Negri should take a look at Elinor and vice versa, very complementary souls!
Ostom, Hardt and Negri are at one on the commons, they stress that big government can be a problem but reject corporate capitalism.
They note that it is possible for property to be collective, not just 'private' or 'state'.
They are all three communists (but not statists).
All three stress the potential human beings have for creativity and power.
I don't think either 'Empire' or Ostrom's 'Governing the Commons' really get us too far when it comes to political change (but hey I can just email Hugo Blanco to get solid gold advice from the hombre who fight for commons and wins!)
I must admit I think Elinor would be more fun to have dinner with than Negri and Hardt but I am a bit of a overt Elinor groupie!
I do need to have a more detailed look at 'Commonwealth' where Negri and Hardt get to grips with commons in more depth and even name check the fight in Peru for rainforest commons!