Office hours: Tuesday 10 - noon or by appointment, at 204 Morgan Hall
Course Description The commons has long been regarded as a side-theme of English history and a cautionary fable about the over-exploitation of shared resources (“the tragedy of the commons”). In recent years, however, the commons has been rediscovered as a versatile paradigm of self-governance and resource management. In circumstances as varied as open source software, Wikipedia, ocean fisheries, indigenous cultures, fresh water supplies and public spaces -- and in countries from Brazil and India to Germany and the United States -- self-organized communities are developing their own commons as practical alternatives to markets and government. Some see the commons as a way to challenge the privatization and commodification of shared resources (“enclosures”); others see it as a practical tool for re-imagining governance and ecological stewardship in the face of market and government failures. Still others see the commons as a way to reintegrate the psychic and cultural wounds of modernity.
This course will survey the political and economic history of the commons, its strengths and limitations over the centuries, and its burgeoning contemporary manifestations. We will be guided by the writings of Elinor Ostrom, Peter Linebaugh, Yochai Benkler, Lawrence Lessig, Peter Barnes, Lewis Hyde and David Bollier as well as by a range of films, essays and Web resources. The course will have direct conversations with policy experts, academics and activists who are at the forefront of commons work, and confront the ambiguities and perplexities of this still-emerging realm of thought and action.
Three essays or one research/term paper.
Each student will be required to write three essays of 5-7 pages each, reflecting on various themes raised by the readings and discussed in class. The specific topics for each paper will be handed out in class. Essays will be due on March 8,April 12 and May 3 and should be submitted by 5 pm on those dates as hard copies deposited in my mailbox in Morgan Hall and as email attachments sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Students from other colleges may submit papers by email alone.)
If you wish to explore a particular commons-related theme in depth, you may elect to do a single term paper instead of the three essays. However, any student choosing this option should do so by February 17, and should consult with me to refine the topic and work out a research plan. Students electing this option should also plan to meet with me two additional times (or more, if necessary) during the semester to review progress on research and writing.
As a seminar course, The Rise of the Commons will require active participation in class discussions and attendance at every class, especially because we will meet only once a week. It is imperative that you prepare for class by doing the required readings each week and by posting on the course website questions raised by the readings.
Books to purchase
The following books should be available at Amherst Books:
David Bollier, Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own
Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property
Peter Barnes, Capitalism 3.0
Jennifer Washburn, University Inc.
Michael F. Brown, Who Owns Native Culture?
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation [available as e-reserve, but also at Amherst Books]
Peter Linebaugh, The Magna Carta Manifesto [available as e-reserve, but also at Amherst Books]
All other readings will be available at the Frost Reserve Desk or as e-reserves. Occasionally, short readings will be posted on the course website or handed out in class.
Supplementary readings. Since discussion will invariably take us beyond the scope of the readings, a wiki-style bibliography of supplementary readings will be available on the course website. You are encouraged to consult these works and add new listings, as warranted. You are also encouraged to consult websites such as http://www.Onthecommons.org, www.indiana.edu/~iascp,
http://blog.p2pfoundation.net, http://www.creativecommons.org and http://www.commoner.org.uk.
Grading. Course grades will be calculated in the following manner: