Feminism and the politics of the commons

Silvia Federici looks at why the concept of ‘the commons’ has been gaining popularity among the radical left, internationally and in the U.S., appearing as a basis for convergence.

Submitted by Jason Cortez on March 25, 2014

Our perspective is that of the planet’s commoners: human beings with bodies, needs, desires, whose most essential tradition is of cooperation in the making and maintenance of life; and yet have had to do so under conditions of suffering and separation from one another, from nature and from the common wealth we have created through generations.
(The Emergency Exit Collective, The Great Eight Masters and the Six Billion
Commoners, Bristol, May Day 2008)

The way in which women’s subsistence work and the contribution of the commons to the concrete survival of local people are both made invisible through the idealizing of them are not only similar but have common roots…In a way, women are treated like commons and commons are treated like women
(Marie Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen,
The Subsistence Perspective: Beyond the Globalized Economy, London: Zed Books,

Reproduction precedes social production. Touch the women, touch the rock.
(Peter Linebaugh, The Magna Carta Manifesto, University of California Press, 2008) Introduction: Why Commons

At least since the Zapatistas took over the zócalo in San Cristobal de las Casas on December 31, 1993 to protest legislation dissolving the ejidal lands of Mexico, the concept of ‘the commons’ has been gaining popularity among the radical left, internationally and in the U.S., appearing as a basis for convergence among anarchists, Marxists, socialists, ecologists, and eco-feminists.

There are important reasons why this apparently archaic idea has come to the center of political discussion in contemporary social movements. Two in particular stand out. On one side is the demise of the statist model of revolution that for decades had sapped the efforts of radical movements to build an alternative to capitalism. On the other, the neo-liberal attempt to subordinate every form of life and knowledge to the logic of the market has heightened our awareness of the danger of living in a world in which we no longer have access to seas, trees, animals, and our fellow beings except through the cash-nexus. The ‘new enclosures’ have also made visible a world of communal properties and relations that many had believed to be extinct or had not valued until threatened with privatization.
Ironically, the new enclosures have demonstrated that not only the common has not vanished, but also new forms of social cooperation are constantly being produced, including in areas of life where none previously existed like, for example, the internet.

Full PDF text here

Taken from commoner.org