Illustration: Caterina Giuliani
What is commoning? This is a question to be addressed together, not just in abstract terms but in a specific local context, here that of New Cross in South London, the place where “we” live, work, transit. A commons is something, material or immaterial, that differs from both the Private and the Public. Let’s take the example of a library. A privatized library is a library that is organized by a private (individual or corporation). A public library is a library organized by a public entity. A “common” library is a library organized by the people who use it. It might be not easy today to find examples of such a commons, everything is owned either by the State, or, more and more often, by privates. Even if it’s difficult to find a “pure” common, there is still commoning: people deciding together how to use what they use with some degree of freedom.
Capitalism is the term we can use to call the private / public system that dominates not only the economy but also our social relations and our lives. Our desires and efforts for a good life together get exploited by capitalism. Commoning can be a process of struggle to reclaim those efforts and desires for ourselves. A commoning that is worth of its name implies a degree of struggle against this private / public system. It also implies a negotiation amongst the people who produce it: we are “privatized” as well, we need to learn how to live together, how to take care of each other collectively.
To understand what is commoning in New Cross we’ll read and discuss texts together, and at the same time we’ll explore the neighbourhood to find out what processes of commoning are already part of the life of New Cross (we’ll start with communal gardens, housing associations, youth and community centres, and the New Cross library). We would like not only to understand the commoning already produced in New Cross, but also to produce new commoning here: to share and organize skills and resources in such a way that this sharing can become more and more autonomous from private / public interests, from the market, from interests that are not those of the people using them.
Visit the blog of the New Cross Commoners to read about past and present activities.
Graphic design: Gaja Mežnaric-Osole
The New Cross Commoners were started in February 2013 in collaboration with Paolo Plotegher, Caterina Giuliani and Orsalia Dimitriou. We left New Cross at the end of 2013, but the project is continuing – now mainly hosted at The Field NX.