In Defense Of The Commons – Shalmali Guttal & Mary Ann Manahan

“Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor.”
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation. 1944. (p. 35)

Shared access, reliance, use and governance of natural resources is a common form of tenure in the world, North and South, rural and urban. The specific rules and institutions that govern common property are very diverse, developed by communities groups on their own direct experience and reflecting their priorities. Where well managed, such systems have proven capable of preserving the long term health of the resources and sustained benefits to the community relying on them. Common spaces are under increasing threat – their resources are grabbed for private interests, mined and degraded for short term gains. A critical factor in this is the weakening of common property management systems, undermined as the paradigms of privatisation and market commodification have dominated policy development. Networks and movements of the poor around the world are reacting to the destruction of their natural resources, and standing up in defence of the commons and the common property systems which sustain them. This article identifies some of the threats to the commons and highlights the resistance of local people.

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