This commentary was invited by the special editors of this issue and is partly based on the Community Economies session that the four authors organised at the Social Movements Conference III: Resistance and Social Change in Wellington, 2016. During the session, a number of questions were asked by participants. Some of these questions were new for us, while others have been asked of Community Economy scholars before.
Today the planet faces a genuine tragedy of the unmanaged “commons.” For decades an open access and unmanaged resource has been treated with the same sort of disregard as Hardin’s pasture was treated. The planet’s life-supporting atmosphere has been spoiled by “‘help yourself’ or ‘feel free’ attitudes” (Hardin 1998: 683). We are now faced with the seemingly impossible task of transforming an open access and unmanaged planetary resource into a commons which is managed and cared for.
Competing with the cartography of capitalism, undermining its power to fix resources as open to capitalist appropriation and space as enclosed, will require a cartography of the commons that makes visible community and commons processes; it will require a shift in strategy from explicating and defending existing commons to mapping spaces into which a commons future might be projected. The Buffalo Commons and a map-based project in New England fisheries link new spatial imaginaries with desires for and enactments of alternative economic initiatives.
"The commons" is often represented in terms that place capitalism at the center of the story, thus making "a commons future" difficult to imagine. This paper examines this problematic through research on the common property management regime of New England fisheries, seeking to offer alternative representations of commons that might open up economic possibility.