The commons in the 21st century: investigating the concept of the commons as a framework for economic democracy

Loschmann, Janis (2019) The commons in the 21st century: investigating the concept of the commons as a framework for economic democracy. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis aims to situate the commons, traditionally associated with natural resources governed by the user community, in the contemporary political and economic context. It develops the concept of the commons beyond the confines of the social science approach to the commons as a managerial ‘resource governance’ mechanism, and emphasizes the social, relational and affective dimension of the commons. It develops the commons as a framework to articulate a politics of community that bears particular relevance to the contemporary political crisis of liberalism. This thesis aims to disclose the particular relevance and innovations that the commons offer in a time of profound transition. In particular, this thesis aims to highlight the centrality of the commons in light of the transformative impact of digital technologies on our political economy. In light of the social and economic transformations brought on by the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, referring broadly to the developing current environment in which transformative technologies and the roll out the Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures, robotics, and ‘smart technologies’ are having a profound impact on the way we live and work. This thesis demonstrates that in light of the digitization of the political economy and the impact of near zero marginal cost productivity, the economic logic of the market economy based on proprietary regimes and price signals is increasingly in tension with newly emerging commons-centric productive modalities and their respective social and economic logic. This thesis argues that the emergence of this digital ‘information economy’ produces a ‘crisis of value’, where digital platforms such as Facebook and Amazon are able to capture swathes of social value (that is not recognized and accounted for) through the mode of ‘netarchical capitalism.’ Consequently, this thesis seeks to develop a critique of the ‘information’ economy from a commons perspective and specifically, the hegemonic value regime of ‘netarchical capital’ that currently dominates it. In particular, this thesis demonstrates that commons-centric design principles, participatory governance mechanisms, and distributive approaches to ownership structures and value that are enshrined by the digital commons, can form a basis for developing alternatives to the netarchical mode, and more generally, develop ways to help articulate a political economy that comes to terms with the socioeconomic realities that define the digital age.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2022 12:11
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2022 12:11


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