property and persuasion

http://commoning.wordpress.com/

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Colonos are hibernating, but shall one day return – perhaps – meanwhile we have come across a new blog just the other day, which is worth a look if you are interested in “Property, Commoning and the Politics of Free Software” and “philosophical and political inquiries into the material nature of the immaterial“. The essay featured in the blog has an interesting critique of the work of Yochai Benkler and Lawrence Lessig, as well as the politics of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, turning on the concept of property relations.

http://commoning.wordpress.com

 

“… I thought we were an autonomous collective…”

Enclosure, inequality and the tediousness of Malthusianism

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This is a very short entry, but should provide food for thought about the misleading rhetoric derived from Malthusian thought, when put in the context of enclosure and the consequent extreme inequalities. Be warned, the following quotes from E. P. Thompson’s  “The making of the English working class” document what must have been a tremendous trauma:

“[We] should remember that the spirit of agricultural improvement in the 18th century was impelled less by altruistic desires to banish ugly wastes or – as the tedious phrase goes – to “feed a growing population” than by the desire for fatter rent-rools and larger profits” (Thompson 1963/1966: 217).

“The arguments of the enclosure propagandists were commonly phrased in terms of higher rental values and higher yield per acre. In village after village, enclosure destroyed the … subsistence economy of the poor – the cow or geese, fuel from the commons, gleanings, and all the rest. The cottager without legal proof of rights was rarely compensated. The cottager who was able to establish his claim was left with a parcel of land inadequate for subsistence and a disproportionate share of the very high enclosure costs: (Thompson 1963/1966: 217)

“For example, in the enclosure of Barton-on-Humber, where attention was paid to common rights, we find that out of nearly 6,000 acres, 63% (3,733 acres) was divided between three people, while fifty-one people were awarded between one and three acres: or, broken down another way, ten owners accounted for 81% of the land enclosed, while the reamining 19% was divided between 116 people. The average rental value of the arable land enclosed rose in five years (1794-9) from 6s. 6d. To 20s. an acre; and average rentals in the parish were more than trebled” (Thompson 1963/1966: 217; my italics)

That resistance fomented, riots broke out and uprisings were attempted repeatedly throughout the realm is hardly of surprise. Neither is it very surprising that consequently the systematic repression intensified and society became very polarised. “The profession of a soldier was held to be dishonourable” (Thompson 1963/1966: 81), the police was instituted as a preventative force of control and survelliance, deterrence and threat – although “[r]esistance to an effective police force continued well into the 19th century (ibid.) – and a very wide range of new “thanatocratic” laws to manage the effects of enclosure – vagrancy, poverty, despair, homelessness, hunger – were enacted. These processes have been covered in Peter Linebaugh’s “The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century (Linebaugh 2003/2006; particularly 42-73). In very brief, these draconian laws to keep the poor in check well define what capitalist democracy looks like:

“The year 1661 saw the promulgation of the first slave code in English history, enacting that human beings become “real chattels” … Also in 1661 the thirty-six Articles of War were promulgated … twenty-two of which provide the death penalty … Besdies that thanatocratic code, discipline in the navy was maintained by “customs of the sea” [including]: the spead eagle, ducking, mastheading, keelhauling, marrying the gunner’s daughter, and the cat-of-nine-tails. In addition to the slave codes, the military codes and the Irish penal code, the criminal code with its “new” capital offences formed the characteristics of this era of substantive British law” (Linebaugh 2003/2006: 53).

Welcome to capitalist democracy – this is what its roots look like!

The Meaning of the Commons: Imagination and Solidarity

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Great talk by Law Professor Louis Wolcher. This is the first talk in a one day conference on part of The Law of the Commons Organized by the Seattle Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild Friday, March 13, 2009. Here is the programme.

“There are two sides: the agents of waste and the lovers of the wild.”

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The recent, very violent policing of protests against the G20 meeting in London has become a matter of concern. The story that the authorities tell is one of disobedient police officers. The story, with a bit of imagination, could be understood as if, perhaps, there aren’t just a few bad apples in the barrel, some individuals: maybe there is a disease inside the institution, indeed it is “very worrying“:

“Some officers now appeared prepared to flout recent orders from senior commanders to display their numbers, Huhne said, with another officer photographed at the protest staged by Tamils in Parliament Square with his numbers disguised. “What we appear to have is repeated cases of police officers ignoring the direct orders of their police supervisors and this is very worrying.

“There’s only one motive for a police officer disguising his identity and that’s because he thinks he’s going to be doing something reprehensible.”

Senior Metropolitan police officers held a series of crisis meetings throughout last week and sources said Sir Paul Stephenson, the new commissioner, was determined to get a grip. One Met source said he was ready to “kick some ass” among senior officers. The IPCC has received more than 185 complaints about the G20 protests, of which 44 are not eligible for consideration, including complaints from people who saw footage on TV. Around 90 complaints about use of force included witness accounts as well as those from alleged victims.”

It is obviously wishful thinking that the current concern will translate into institutional reforms on a large scale. Most likely it will subside into a few firings, extended suspensions (paid holidays) and early retirements with golden handshakes. The police as an institution is intricately connected to the economy and representative democracy, representing industrial, private interests, as such it is a force of violence that is mobilised when the masses threaten the elite. The police are the arms of the agents of waste.

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Bad Vista Demon: Worship Satan and what is worse…..

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“Some people say that if you play a Windoze Vista install DVD backwards you will hear demon voices commanding you to worship Satan. But that’s nothing. If you play it forward it will install Windoze Vista.”

WORLD FACING HUGE NEW CHALLENGE ON FOOD FRONT: The 11th Hour in context

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We watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s “11th hour” last night (you might be able to watch it here or via quicksilversreen.com and read more about it here) and although it was by no stretch of the imagination a very good film on any terms (structure, presentation of material, cinematography or in terms of delivering a profound radical political message) it was still a positive surprise. But hey! what would you expect, come on, be honest?

In the critical (mainstream environmentalist?) words of Rikke Bruntse-Dahl, writing for smartplanet.com:

“The overall message was that we’ve forgotten that we’re part of nature and even though the Earth as such will survive, it will not be a pleasant — or indeed habitable — place to be if we don’t start looking after it and each other. While it’s undoubtedly a good message, which we’d like as many people as possible to hear, the film itself is just not up to scratch.

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Property and Persuasion: a good place to begin

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One of the basic philosophical and political questions that concern us here at colonos is that of property: what does it mean to own something, what is private property and what is collective property? How does property relate to the historical and political developments of capitalism? A good place to begin is the writings of Carol Rose:

Rose, Carol M. (1994) Property and Persuasion: Essays on the History, Theory and Rhetoric of Ownership. Westview Press. Download the complete book.

More about Rose here