Reading seminar on the Commons starts next week

We’re setting up a reading group on the ‘commons’, which will kick off next Tuesday.

The group will based at GradCam but is open to anyone so come along if you are interested.

The first, introductory meeting will take place on Tuesday, 25th September, at 17.00 in the Seminar Room in Johns Lane West, off Thomas Street. This will be a chance to meet each other and arrange a suitable timetable for the seminar proper.

If you have any questions email

Full detals follow.

Commons reading seminar

Theorists of enclosure have described and analyzed its spokespeople, legal bases, economic rationalities, political implications and philosophical underpinnings. The same cannot be said for the commons, which are often discussed ambiguously in terms of ‘anti-enclosure’, outside the limits of private property and commodification.

In the contemporary context, where the distinction between public and private has become weak and the logic of enclosure extends over new areas of social and ecological life, the potential significance of the commons, as a potent idea to mobilize behind and a material form to live by, appears great. Yet the characteristics of the commons are under-explored. Who are the spokespeople of the commons? What rights does it lay claim to and how? What forms of exchange, production and distribution does it employ? What regimes of property does it use? What forms of social and ecological relations does it enact and express?

These seem to be important political questions which we would like to explore by discussing a wide-range of sources on the commons. While we will draw on contemporary theories of the commons our main concern is to ‘thicken’ the concept by looking at and examining concrete examples drawn from historical and contemporary research.


This is a very brief sketch of how the seminar will be organized in terms of general themes. While we have certain readings (and films) in mind the more precise direction and content of the seminar should be worked our and agreed on by the participants.

The first part of the seminar will provide an overview and discussion of some recent texts on the concepts of the commons and enclosure. While there are various interpretations of the commons we want to concentrate on that dimension which is excessive to the state and capital, and the ways this results in moments of conflict or struggle. This is in contrast to a more managerial, neoliberal conception of the commons framed in terms of ‘governance of the commons.’

The second part of the seminar, up to Christmas, will focus on historical and contemporary articulations of the commons. This will involve looking at empirical research on contestations over the use, value and meaning of different spaces, bodies and resources.

After Christmas, the focus will turn to questions relating to the politics of the common: the relationship between the commons and the state (public); the issue of inclusion and exclusion, and the possibility of a ‘common commons’ framed in terms of ‘common rights’. We have readings in mind but, again, the precise structure of this part of the seminar will be determined by the participants.

Preliminary Reading List

Blomley, N. (2008). Enclosure, Common Right and the Property of the Poor. Social & Legal Studies, 17 (3) : 311-331.

Caffentzis, G. (2010). The Future of the Commons : Neoliberalism’s ‘Plan B’ or the Original Disaccumulation of Capital? New Formations, 23, 23-41.

Dalakoglou, D. & Vradis, A. (2012). Spatial legacies of December and the right to the city. Revolt and Crisis in Greece. AK Press: London.

De Angelis, M. (2003). Reflections on alternatives, commons and communities or building a new world from the bottom up. The Commoner.

De Angelis, M. & Stavrides, S. (2010). On the Commons: A Public Interview with Massimo De Angelis and Stavros Stavrides. E-Flux.

Eizenberg, E. (2012). Actually Existing Commons: Three Moments of Space of Community Gardens in New York City. Antipode, 44, 3, 764-782.

Federici, S. (2004). Caliban the Witch. Autonomedia, New York.

Johnson, C. (2004). Uncommon Ground: The ‘Poverty of History’ in Common Property Discourse.

Development and Change, 35(3): 407–433

Linebaugh, P.  (2007). Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Linebaugh, P. (2012). Nedd Ludd and Queen Mab: Machine-Breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons of 1811-12. Oakland, CA: Retort Pamphlet Series.

Linebaugh, P. and Rediker, M (2000). The Many-Headed Hydra. Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden history of the Revolutionary Atlantic. Beacon Press, Boston.

May, T. (2010). ‪Institutions of Equality. In Contemporary Political Movements and the Thought of Jacques Rancière: ‪Equality in Action. Edinburgh University Press.

McCarthy, J. (2005). Commons as Counterhegemonic Projects. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 16, 9-24.

Thompson, E.P. (1991). Customs in Common. The New Press, New York.


Brownlow, K. & Mollo, A. (1975). Winstanley.

Hamilton Kennedy (2008). The Garden.

Varda, A. (2000).The Gleaners and I.

Watkins, P. (2000). La Commune (Paris, 1871).




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