ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Cultural Commons

A Philosophical Analysis—Part I

This article explores the ways in which a background of non-discursive practices that are properly describable as a “cultural commons” underlie the very possibility of law and norm in the governance of a social group. This effi cacy of these practices provides conceptual sources for a recovery of other forms of the common, such as the land or the environmental commons. The idea of a cultural commons is a distinctive ideal that stands apart from other political and moral ideals, such as liberty, equality, and fraternity. It stands apart from ideals of trust and cooperation. The article specifi es how it is related to these, and to other fundamental institutions of modernity, such as capital and the state. As such, it cannot be inserted into constitutions, or directly be the goal of politics. It is a non-optional and non-cancellable ideal, that might be identifi ed with what Marx called “unalienated” life.

The concept of the commons has many claimants today, but these emerged gradually over its long conceptual history. Initially, its deployment seems to have been restricted to areas of land for cultivation, grazing, or mere foraging. All these activities were performed by inhabitants of the commons, who may or may not have formed a population that conceived of itself as a group, but who, whether they did so or not, in some sense, can be said to have shared the land.

Today, we speak with much less res­triction of the environmental commons of the entire planet earth. Even geologists, in demanding a change of nomenclature for our present era (no longer the “Holocene” but the “Anthropocene”), have shed their predominant focus on the lithosphere to claim the earth’s atmo­sphere, hydrosphere and bios­p­here as the planetary commons; and with new technologies making knowledge much more freely available outside the covers of books and journals, and outside the walls of schools, academies, and libraries, claims to a knowledge commons or digital commons are now ubiquitous.

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Updated On : 6th Jul, 2021
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