Omnia Sunt Communia

Omnia Sunt Communia

Credits: picture from press.uchicago.edu

Omnia Sunt Communia. On the Commons and the Transformation to Postcapitalism is a new book written by Massimo De Angelis, a professor of political economy at the University of East London and founder and editor of the web journal The Commoner.

The expression “omnia sunt communia” means “all things in common” and is a Latin expression, taken by the Bible. The quote is attributed to German rebel leader Thomas Müntzer during the massive peasant revolt of central Europe beginning in 1526. The slogan (and the book) calls for new ways of constituting human societies where enclosure, imprisonment, slavery, and war are no longer the means of production and reproduction.

In his book, Massimo De Angelis falls within the framework of rethinking capitalism, a field where Paul Mason and his “PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future” play a crucial role if only out of the term “postcapitalism” that indicates the movement in charge of “creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours”. So, in one of the worst crisis in the history of capitalism that is primarily economic and social but also environmental, Professor De Angelis affirms that neither states nor markets seem able to offer solutions but commons have become not only increasingly commonplace, but also increasingly relevant. Besides the concept of postcapitalism, the author builds his book around the idea of commons, viewed as “social systems in which resources are shared by a community of users/producers, who also define the modes of use and production, distribution and circulation of these resources through democratic and horizontal forms of governance”. According to this, the book is divided in four parts: in the Part One the author describes the elements and the structure of Commons as system, in the Part Two the book talks about Commons governance and money nexus and commons formula. In Part Three Massimo De Angelis explains that Commoning is the source of grassroots power through social labour mobilization and the production of autonomy, boundaries and sense; finally, Part Four, named “Social change”, indicates the path towards postcapitalism including the relation between commons, state and market.

The aim of the book is to provide information to construct postcapitalistic ways to reproduce more autonomous forms of social life, other than those provided by states and markets by conceptualizing the idea of commons not just as common goods but as a set of social systems. In his view, capitalism is not sustainable environmentally (pollution, climate change, etc.), socially (i.e. radical inequalities) and economically (economic crisis, unemployment, etc.) and it is not the solution to save our planet: only a commons-based postcapitalism could do.

Nonetheless, postcapitalistic world is not spontaneous and other different scenarios are possible. According to the author, it is necessary to develop postcapitalism through inventing new forms of commoning, building bridges between and beyond roles, such as employees and employers, clients and service providers, parents and nannies. It is fundamental to build new social system in which reproduction stems from the direct participation of communities of producers reclaiming, sharing, and pooling resources of various types, driven by values fundamentally opposed to those embedded in the capital circuits: solidarity, mutual aid, cooperation, respect for human being and the environment, horizontalism and direct democracy. In this scenario, social movements play a crucial role: although they don’t create reality, they have the capacity of shifting the boundaries of what is possible.

As reported in official book summary, Massimo De Angelis exposes attempts to co-opt the commons, through the use of code words such as “participation” and “governance“, and reveals the potential for radical transformation rooted in the reproduction of our communities, of life, of work and of society as a whole.

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Nel filone di ricerca sulle forme alternative al capitalismo, si inserisce anche Massimo De Angelis con il suo Omnia Sunt Communia. Con questa opera, De Angelis indica nella costruzione di una sistema postcapitalistico basato sui commons la salvezza del nostro pianeta.