Spaces stewarded as commons

We described as provisioning spaces under commons stewardship. Here we develop the description of commoning as a regime of multiple contributions, including contributions in stewarding.

Earlier, in spaces, we described as provisioning spaces under commons stewardship. Here we develop the description of commoning, as an approach to what is more often called governance. Governance is typically understood in terms of ’decision making’, and there’s then a rush into formal, legalistic specifications of how decisions may legitimately be made, and by whom.

Here, however, we present the practice of commoning as being essentially about an ecology of contributions in-and-to practice - plural, recognised, valued contributions, in commons of several kinds - and about the kinds of valuing and contributing involved. Governance in this frame is understood as the practice of stewarding of commons, including contributions in practices of . . valuing, curating, steering, applying and policing sanctions, assigning privileges and obligations, establishing protocols, mobilising and enjoying commoned means, etc.

Commoning has three constituent modes, to be described, within each of which particular kinds of contributions are made by commoners. Stewarding is one of these three, but contributions are made by commoners in all of them, and it’s the totality of contributions across all of them - the ‘dance of commoning’ - that constitutes the political economy of a commons. In a sense, governance is distributed across the entire span of contributions of all kinds, and resides in the aesthetic frame that informs the 'dance'.

A commons is not a commons without being actively stewarded and otherwise contributed-in. Any constellation of resources or means that is not stewarded and actively contributed-in is not a commons, it’s an unregulated common pool - the faux-commons of Garrett Hardin’s notorious and ill-informed, liberal-individualist narrative of 'the tragedy of the commons'.

On this basis, governance as 'decision-making' gives way in a commons to the skilful placement and enactment or performing of contributions, continuously, in all spheres, including many mundane and operational actions in everyday locations, as well as in some (influential, longer-reach, steering, shaping) decision-actions, allocation-actions, assessment-actions, infrastructuring-actions, sanctioning-actions; and so on, conducted in formal stewarding venues.

Although commons have ‘courts’, parliaments and governing assemblies of various kinds (see 4 Assemblies and deliberations), governance is not a separated sphere of juridical practice or - as in the government of a state or the governance of a corporation, for example - of executive decision-making removed from the operational, everyday practice of actively participating in a commons. The dance of commoning is as much an aesthetic practice as a juridical one. However, value(ing) - prior to ‘decision making', and the basis of judgement in a juridical sense - is deeply embedded in the full range of commoner-actions.

Governance in a commons is contributed to - enacted - mundanely by worker-producer, user-mobilisers (commoners), and not simply by nominal 'stewards' in specialised stewardship venues. This is the aesthetic care work that makes a commons out of a common pool.

In this section we discuss:

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