Consciousness and the Post-Capitalist Commons - P2P Foundation
“It is generally accepted that certain types of institutions function best when most of their members share a certain type of consciousness: a similar way of making sense of the world and of moral judgment. In short, capitalist consciousness works best for capitalist institutions, just as feudal consciousness works best for feudal institutions. If a commons-based society were to be the dominant institutional framework for a better future, then what kind of consciousness would be necessary for it to work? Research in developmental psychology provides us with powerful evidence as to what a post-capitalist consciousness might look like and how it would fit with a commons-based society. The work of some developmental psychologists describe the furthest reaches of consciousness development as being one that is capable of making sense of highly complex systems, as being principle-based (instead of rule-based) and as being flexible, globally empathetic, post-materialist, and capable of finding unity in diversity and diversity in unity. It is precisely these types of characteristics that are necessary for developing a society based on post-capitalist commons. This type of consciousness also points to how future commons would be different from pre-capitalist commons, which is a distinction we will have to make if we hope to move forward towards a post-capitalist future and not regress to pre-capitalist social formations.”
Pre-capitalist commons have a several characteristics that simply do not apply to post-capitalist commons or, at least, do not apply in the same way. For example, one key difference is that pre-capitalist commons, such as the typical shared grazing land or the shared fishery, was based on scarce but renewable resources. As a result, clearly defined boundaries (characteristic #1) and rules governing resource appropriation (#2) play a central role in scarce resource commons. After all, if everyone can appropriate as much of the commons resources as they want (grassland or fish, for example), the resource will become depleted and no one would be able to take advantage of it any more. Post-capitalist commons, which tend to be knowledge-based, are potentially limitless or non-scarce (or “non-rival”), and thus these principles do not apply to them. Similarly, the 8th characteristic that Ostrom mentions, the need for multiple layers of organization in large-scale commons is also not as necessary in post-capitalist commons. The reason for this is that post-capitalist commons are based on networking and peer-to-peer principles that do not need hierarchical forms of organization in order to function efficiently.