The future of 'the commons': neoliberalism's 'plan B' or the original disaccumulation of capital?

Winter 2009

This essay examines the complex and conflicting motivations driving the increasing uses of the concept of the commons in contemporary political discourse. This conflict has led to the development of two connotations of the concept that are especially important: the pro-capitalist and the anti-capitalist commons. Examples of both types of commons are discussed in the essay which includes an extensive description of the hoboes? struggle in the teens and twenties of the twentieth century to transform privately owned rails and freight cars into an anti-capitalist transport commons that they defended against attacks by the railroad guards, the local police and the KKK. The last part of the essay shows how the concept of the commons has been increasingly used by political figures like Jeffrey Sachs and Barack Obama to bolster the capitalist system in a time of crisis.

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