Workshop Organisers: Workshop Suggestions (4)

We should like to come back to our suggestions from 1.9., 11.9. and from 10.10.2013 (see on this blog) and continue giving impulses to our pre-workshop-discussion. Therefore, after re-reading the texts by the Ostroms and your contributions – we are looking forward to getting some more – we would like to formulate a few more theses:

1.      The challenge will be to make the contradictions and ambivalences of the Ostroms’s heritage productive. It means to understand reality in a deeper way, to improve our own theoretical work and to organize new social and political platforms, unions, alliances – in order to strengthen the potential for emancipatoric forces.

More concretely: The work of the Ostroms to realize governance enabling sustainable development helps to understand the causes (and causers) making sustainable development in the sense of the Brundtland report impossible. Their methods help to develop scientific approaches to elaborating strategies against the causes (and causers) presently making sustainable development impossible.

The discussion on the theoretical heritage of the Ostroms, on its theoretical and practical use, on its supporters, critics and critical inheritors helps to bring individual and collective actors together and thereby to strengthen the forces aiming  at sustainable development in the sense of the Brundtland report.

2.       One of the main problems to be addressed will be to understand the difference between aiming at good governance and aiming at a good society having corresponding good governance. When a “good society” means a society of freedom and of equality realized in a tangible way, i.e. a society built on solidarity, while meeting the requirements of ecological sustainability, the question arises: who among the agents and what forces structurally do act against freedom and equality, against solidarity and ecological sustainability? A next question is: Could any good governance help to come closer to a good society? Which are the conditions and the limits for a positive answer to this question?

So the challenge is to deal with the causers and causes of violence against human beings, of social inequality, of heteronomy, competition and ecological destruction. This challenge concerns also and especially the theoretical work on alternatives and on the corresponding political strategies.

3.     The question on the commons is the question on the reproduction of the society and how to keep, to protect, to increase the possibilities enabling a decent life for everybody, for realizing a good society – Buen Vivir. So we should ask on the conditions for

       being free from violence, repression, discrimination, and surveillance,

       being able to determine one’s own life and to influence the development of the society,

       being socially protected – having decent work, a decent income, and decent housing,

       having access to education and to medical care on a high standard,

       living in an intact nature.

This is not “only” a question about governance but about overcoming the societal structures which prevent the possibility of realizing such conditions. It is a question about socio-ecological reconstruction or transformation.

4.       This specific approach to the commons explains the attempts to use economic categories, which were used by the Ostroms, but also to develop categories going beyond them. The approach challenges theories and conceptions by asking for their specific aim and on their usefulness for understanding and also for changing reality. The last mentioned task is not only at least a matter of convincing and organizing individuals, of becoming able to work on political strategies and societal alternatives.

5.       For using governance to realize sustainable development the Ostroms elaborated enormously helpful concepts and approaches challenging mainstream economics, and the scientific and political mainstream. In this sense, three of their achievements are especially important and indispensable:

       overcoming the model of conceiving the individuals simply as rational consumers and as a voters, highlighting their ability to learn, to co-operate, to govern themselves,

       overcoming an approach to goods and governance which is built upon abstracting from the reproduction process (common good, policentricity, common-pool resources, socio-ecological analysis)

       overcoming a kind of science and teaching which marginalizes or ignores their real experiences and deals with individuals and collectives in an over-simplified way, does not aim at improving human well-being on all levels – from the local to the global level.  

6.       The Ostroms have taken the individuals and their collectives seriously and have regarded them as able to learn and to change, to transform institutions. When abstracting, however, from social hierarchies, social inequalities, the relations between socially heterogeneous individuals, groups, classes and between them and nature, it is not possible to use the Ostroms’ heritage for working on conceptions and strategies for social change without criticizing it radically. Above all their use of the theory of games demonstrates an approach to the individuals which tends to marginalize or ignore it as a social actor and as a member of a collective social agency.

7.      The points 1-6 highlight the problem of the needed radical criticism of the reality and of the theory that will reflect it adequately. Criticizing the reality radically means to explain its causers and causes in their historical development and the ways to overcome them. Criticizing theory radically means to analyze the causes for the advantages and limits of explaining the causes and causers of the reality and the ways to change it. Criticizing theory demands enquiring into the history of material development and the history of thoughts, sciences and theory. 

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